Sunday, September 3, 2017

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Mandaeism - Iraqi religious minority struggles to survive in hostile environment

Mandaeans are a closed ethno-religious community, practicing Mandaeism, which is a Gnostic religion (manda means "knowledge," as does "gnosis") with a strongly dualistic worldview. They especially reject Jesus and call him a traitor and false prophet who was sent by planetary rulers to lead mankind astray. They do revere John the Baptist instead as the true prophet of God.
Mazen Nayef, the leader of Basra's Sabaean Mandaean community, told Al-Sumaria News on July 23 that Iraqi authorities recently denied the community's request to build a house of worship, despite legally owning the land where it would be built. The Mandaeans fear that this will lead to further marginalization of the community and its culture. ​
As part of a campaign against the Mandaeans in Iraq, videos and rumors about the community's purported use of magic and sorcery have spread like wildfire. Consequently, the leader of the Sabaean Mandaean community in Iraq, Sheikh Satar Jabar Helou, said Aug. 16 that his community has nothing to do with witchcraft.
Mandaeism is the oldest unified religion known to humanity. It originated in Mesopotamia, specifically the city of Ur and the coastal areas near the Mesopotamian marshes. The Mandaean belief system, according to the Mandaean Associations Union, is monotheistic, with Adam being "the first Mandaean who received the religious instructions directly from God."
Before the US invasion in 2003, Iraq's Mandaean community was estimated at 70,000, but many emigrated due to rampant kidnappings and displacement. Today's population in Iraq is around 10,000, while many live in Iran. In April 2017, Iraqi customs authorities at the Shalamjah border crossing prevented the entry of copies of a Mandaean religious text, “The Great Book, Ginza Rba,” which is the group's source of commandments and teachings.
“The members of the community cannot practice their rituals in public," said a Sabaean Mandaean from Diwaniya, on condition of anonymity. "They are forced to do so indoors and in private. At the same time, they find themselves compelled to engage in Muslim rituals, in order to avoid any misunderstandings.” Only a limited number of Mandaeans remain in Diwaniya in light of the ongoing emigration of their community.
“Some parties and religious groups have an agenda to displace minorities in order to turn Iraq into a purely Islamic state,” said author Nazar Yasser al-Haider, a Sabaean Mandaean residing in the United States.
Such actions against the community “make Mandaeans feel marginalized and persecuted based on their beliefs, as if they were second-class citizens in Iraq,” said Haider. “These actions are a violation of the Iraqi Constitution, which guarantees freedom of belief, protects religious minorities and allows them to practice their religion.”
Regarding Iraq's dwindling Mandaean population, Haider said, “The extremist environment is culturally and ideologically forcing minorities to emigrate, and there are armed groups that adopt the policy of minority displacement in order to seize their property.”
Riyad Bankani, a Mandaean and academic who emigrated to Canada, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “The most important challenge facing Mandaeans is the security chaos that some extremists exploit. [The extremists] threaten the Sabaeans to abandon their belief and their non-proselytizing, peaceful religion, which only preaches coexistence and never forces people to embrace it.”
Mandaeans do not proselytize. They also do not allow conversions and forbid Mandaeans from marrying outside their religion. These factors have further contributed to the decline in Mandaeans.
Bankani said the instability of Iraq's political system makes it "difficult to implement laws that protect minorities," including a 2012 law, known as Law No. 58, which protects one's right to worship freely. Parliament established the Endowments of the Christian, Ezidian and Sabaean Mandaean Religions Diwan in 2003 to provide services to religious minorities. The Sabaean Mandaeans are represented by one deputy in parliament and have one seat on the Baghdad provincial council. Mandaean member of parliament Harith al-Harthy said Aug. 4, “Mandaeans are being harassed and pressured by certain figures to leave Iraq.” Iraqi journalist Alaa al-Hamidi, who specializes in covering minority rights, told Al-Monitor, “Only dozens of Mandaeans remain in Iraqi provinces. … One of the daily dilemmas faced by members of religious minorities, especially Sabaeans, is the National Identity Card Law, which discriminates between Iraqis based on religion and belief.” ​Article 26 of the National Identity Card Law, according to Hamidi, "encourages the Islamization of [youth] minorities when a parent converts to Islam, which constitutes a threat to religious freedom.” He added that “not one school in all of Iraq is dedicated to the young generation of Mandaeans.” ​
Selim Khamisi, 70, a Sabaean who works in the gold trade in Babil province, where only dozens of Mandaeans remain, told Al-Monitor, “The fear of security instability and the increasing sectarian strife in Iraq has made us practice our religious rituals, such as prayer, fasting and baptism, in relatively isolated places and out of sight.”
Khamisi said the community’s demands to obtain land to establish a Mandaean cemetery were "completely ignored" by local authorities. Mandaeans have settled in over 20 countries around the world, with an estimated global population of 150,000
Prior to activating laws and addressing the Mandaean community’s material needs in Iraq, it is necessary to promote a culture of respect and tolerance for different beliefs and to combat religious discrimination.
Read more:

Putin & Xi agree to ‘appropriately deal’ with N. Korea test, urge all sides 'to show restraint'

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have agreed that it is important to prevent chaos on the Korean Peninsula and called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, following news of the latest nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang. "The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and to maintain close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation," the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
The presidents met in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen for the ninth BRICS summit, which is scheduled for September 3-5.
The Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that both Putin and Xi had "expressed their deep concern over this situation,” adding that the two leaders stressed the importance of “preventing chaos on the [Korean] peninsula” as well as the “importance for all sides to show restraint and focus on seeking resolution [of the crisis] solely in a political and diplomatic way.”
He also said that Putin and Xi called the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “absolutely unacceptable.”
The Russian president’s spokesman went on to say that Putin has also already discussed the situation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a telephone conversation. Putin “called on the international community not to give in to emotions and to take a reasonable and balanced approach,” Peskov said.
He went on to say that Russia is ready to “take part in all relevant discussions [concerning a response to the actions of the DRPK] within the UN Security Council and in other formats.” Peskov added that the sanctions imposed on North Korea so far had "not led to any positive outcome” and the “situation leaves much to be desired.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have agreed that it is important to prevent chaos on the Korean Peninsula and called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, following news of the latest nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang. "The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and to maintain close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation," the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
The presidents met in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen for the ninth BRICS summit, which is scheduled for September 3-5. The Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that both Putin and Xi had "expressed their deep concern over this situation,” adding that the two leaders stressed the importance of “preventing chaos on the [Korean] peninsula” as well as the “importance for all sides to show restraint and focus on seeking resolution [of the crisis] solely in a political and diplomatic way.”
He also said that Putin and Xi called the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “absolutely unacceptable.”
The Russian president’s spokesman went on to say that Putin has also already discussed the situation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a telephone conversation. Putin “called on the international community not to give in to emotions and to take a reasonable and balanced approach,” Peskov said.
He went on to say that Russia is ready to “take part in all relevant discussions [concerning a response to the actions of the DRPK] within the UN Security Council and in other formats.” Peskov added that the sanctions imposed on North Korea so far had "not led to any positive outcome” and the “situation leaves much to be desired.”
Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the North Korean test, adding that in a situation like this, it is essential “to keep composure and to restrain from any acts, which may lead to further escalation of tensions.” The test is “another example of Pyongyang’s outright disregard” of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, the ministry said in a statement.
“We cannot but regret the fact the DPRK [North Korea] leadership is creating grave threats to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the whole region by its actions, which are aimed at undermining the global non-proliferation regime. The continuation of this line is fraught with grave consequences for the DPRK itself.” Beijing has also strongly condemned the actions of North Korea, saying that it had “once again conducted a nuclear test in spite of widespread opposition from the international community,” in a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry.
China earlier warned that it would prevent the US and South Korea from conducting preventive strikes against North Korea as well as from attempts to overthrow the leadership in Pyongyang. It added, however, that it would not interfere into the conflict if the North launches missiles at American targets first. US President Donald Trump criticized China on Sunday for its role in resolving the North Korea crisis, saying that Beijing “is trying to help but with little success.” He later said that the US was considering stopping “all trade with any country doing business with North Korea” as one of the responses to North Korea’s latest test. Other world leaders also supported the idea of imposing new sanctions against
Pyongyang following the test. European Council President Donald Tusk said that the EU was “ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programs without condition,” Reuters reported. Tusk also called on the UN Security Council “to adopt further UN sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the North’s latest test “poses an unacceptable further threat to the international community” and also urged the UNSC to look at imposing new sanctions on North Korea.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly condemned the test and called for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, while Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested including restrictions on oil trade with North Korea into the list of new sanctions.
At the same time, China’s Global Times newspaper warned against cutting off the North’s oil supply. “If China completely cuts off the supply of oil to North Korea or even closes the China-North Korea border, it is uncertain whether we can deter Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear tests and missile launches. However, confrontation between the two is likely to occur,” it said, as cited by Reuters. North Korea gets the bulk of its oil from China, its main trading partner. The newspaper warned that cutting off oil supplies to North Korea could prompt a conflict between Beijing and Pyongyang that “will transcend any conflict between the US and North Korea, and take center stage on the Korean Peninsula.”
On Sunday, North Korean state media reported that Pyongyang successfully tested a hydrogen bomb which can be mounted on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The test followed Pyongyang’s claims that it developed a new, more advanced hydrogen nuke that is small enough to be fitted on an ICBM.
The bomb test was a “perfect success” and was a “meaningful” step to complete the North’s nuclear weapons program, state television reported.

Video Report - DPRK condemned after "successful" hydrogen bomb test

China - How should Beijing respond to Pyongyang's new nuclear test?

North Korea conducted a new nuclear test at noon on Sunday. China's Foreign Ministry firmly opposed and condemned the move.
The test marks another wrong choice that Pyongyang has made in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and against the will of the international community. This test will result in a new round of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and heighten the risk of the situation spiraling out of control due to possible miscalculations by all sides.
Currently, the most important thing for China is to make sure that we are able to detect any leak of nuclear material, so we can inform people living in northeastern China to take the appropriate safety measures.
People in China's northeastern regions bordering North Korea felt the ground shake at noon. The five nuclear tests North Korea had previously conducted did not cause a nuclear leak and Pyongyang claimed that its latest underground nuclear test would not generate any leaks, while underlining its responsibility for the safety of the North Korean people who live close to the test site. In this respect, we hope North Korea can uphold its word.
The latest nuclear test and its recent launches of intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles prove that Pyongyang is determined to obtain a nuclear strike capability and will not yield to external international pressures. The North Korean nuclear issue has now reached deadlock.
In the face of such a complicated situation, China needs a sober mind and must minimize the risks Chinese society has to bear. The security of China's northeastern regions is a priority. We need to make clear to Pyongyang through various channels that its nuclear tests can never contaminate China's northeastern provinces. China's strategic security and environmental safety is the bottom line for China in showing restraint. If North Korea crosses this line, the current framework for Sino-North Korean ties will break down.
The latest nuclear and missile activities of North Korea will prompt the UN Security Council to discuss new sanctions against Pyongyang and even more stringent sanctions are inevitable. Despite the anger of the Chinese public toward North Korea's new nuclear test, we should avoid resorting to rash and extreme means by imposing a full embargo on North Korea.
If China completely cuts off the supply of oil to North Korea or even closes the China-North Korea border, it is uncertain whether we can deter Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear tests and missile launches. However, confrontation between the two is likely to occur. If so, the conflict between China and North Korea will transcend any conflict between the US and North Korea, and take center stage on the Korean Peninsula. Then Washington and Seoul can boldly shift the responsibility of the North Korean nuclear issue to China, which does not fit China's national interests.
If North Korea's nuclear activities don't contaminate China's northeastern regions, China should avoid imposing overly aggressive sanctions on North Korea. The root cause of the North Korean nuclear issue is that the military pressure of the Washington-Seoul alliance generates a sense of insecurity for Pyongyang who then believes that owning a nuclear strike capability is its sole guarantee for survival of its regime. China is a big power and its agendas and interests are globally oriented. The issue around the Korean Peninsula could never consume all of China's attention.

China: Putin and Xi Jinping hold bilateral talks ahead of BRICS summit kick-off in Xiamen

Video: Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers keynote speech at BRICS Business Forum

Video - Russian President Putin arrives in Xiamen for BRICS Summit

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Video - Between the Scenes - Trump Experiences Hurricane Harvey "First Hand": The Daily Show

Video Report - See where 10,000 people are living after #HurricaneHarvey

Video Report - #HurricanHarvey brings 'hell' to Texas residents

Obama shows Trump how to be presidential

By Jill Filipovic

A decade after vicious election-related violence in Kenya left more than 1,000 dead and the country in shock, Kenyans were voting Tuesday in a hotly contested presidential election. Trust -- in politicians, in the integrity of the political system -- remains low. Fear -- that the vote will be compromised, that unscrupulous leaders will inflame the public -- runs high.
Enter a true global leader: Barack Obama.
Obama, whose father was from Kenya and who remains a beloved adoptive native son, spoke out about the elections, imploring leaders and law enforcement to behave responsibly. "I urge all Kenyans to work for an election -- and aftermath -- that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new Constitution and the future of your country," he said in a statement. "Any disputes around the election should be resolved peacefully, through Kenya's institutions and the rule of law."
President Donald Trump has had nothing to say about the election. He's spent this week on vacation, tweeting about a senator who criticized him and complaining, yet again, about the "fake news" of every reputable news source in the country.
His presidency has become an international embarrassment, partly because of the cloud of Russian collusion, but largely because of Trump himself and the choices he makes: the trigger-finger tweeting that makes him seem more pubescent than presidential, the colossal ego he puts before the good of the country, the rambling and incoherent verbiage that makes some suspect something's not quite right.
Obama has been largely silent during this calamity of a presidency. His absence from the public eye has allowed too many of us to forget what it means to be a true statesman. His message to the Kenyan government and its citizens to respect the election results and avoid violence, is a timely and necessary reminder: a public servant's role is to serve the public. It is to motivate and inspire, not to rage and whine. It's a sad and telling state of affairs when a former president has more influence on an important American ally than a sitting one. It's not just that Trump hasn't said anything about the Kenyan elections, it's that any statement he made would likely be met with a collective shrug. He's not just widely reviled and disliked here -- he's mocked. Obama remains respected at home and abroad, his name met with smiles and nods from many Kenyans and Americans alike. Say the name "Trump" and you'll get snickering and eye rolls.
Leadership is about policy, but it's also about professionalism, competence and character. Whether you agree with Obama's politics or not, it's hard to deny that he commands a room, that his statements about global affairs, even months after his presidency ended, command attention and respect. We may disagree over his strategy and his decisions, but it's clear that Obama took his service to the country seriously, and that he continues to be thoughtful about how best to occupy his new role. Trump, on the other hand, seems to serve nothing but his own interests and those of his immediate family. His best-known comments about Kenya involved false claims that Obama was born there (and ineligible to be president -- an early preview of what has been a long series of Trump lies).
While Trump wastes his time and ours on social media, Obama uses his position for diplomacy and human rights, turning the eyes of the world toward Kenya, whose people want peaceful and fair elections. Obama's statement helps them move toward their wish, by letting the Kenyan power players, the army and law enforcement know that more of the world is watching. This is what it means to be presidential, not petulant. We never knew how good we had it.

Video Report - Santorum: Obama letter politically correct

Read The Letter Barack Obama Left Donald Trump Upon Leaving Office

By Igor Bobic
“Congratulations on a remarkable run.”
Upon leaving office, former President Barack Obama left his successor President Donald Trump a letter that he left on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
Trump vowed to cherish what he called the “beautiful letter” during a swearing-in ceremony for several top administration appointees in January.
“It was really very nice of him to do that,” he said, adding that “we won’t even tell the press what’s in that letter.”
CNN on Sunday obtained and posted the contents of the letter, which was signed “BO.” Read it below:
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions ― like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties ― that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches. Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,

The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan

By Christopher DeLorenzo

As they return to Washington this week from their August recess, House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee have their work cut out for them. Their job is to draft a major tax-cut bill for Congress to pass, ideally by year-end, to avoid closing out 2017 without a single big legislative win. The policy objective is to steeply cut tax rates for businesses and wealthy individuals. The political aim, and the point of President Trump’s speech last Wednesday, is to persuade the men and women in the Trump working-class base that a tax cut for the wealthy would be good for them, too.

It would not be, and to pretend otherwise, as Mr. Trump did, is to substitute propaganda for discourse. Mr. Trump’s claim that tax cuts will propel economic growth and lift wages ignores the consensus view of economists, which is that multitrillion-dollar tax cuts, as envisioned by Mr. Trump, are not a stable or reliable way to do either.
The president’s claim also defies history. Wages have long stagnated, despite tax cuts in the 1980s and 2000s, while profits, shareholder returns and executive pay have soared. Profits, whether lifted by favorable economic conditions, by tax cuts or by both, have not translated into employee raises and have instead been used for other purposes. One is to buy back stock, which lifts share prices and, by extension, executive compensation. Following a huge one-off corporate tax cut in 2004, big piles of corporate cash were also used to pay dividends to shareholders, settle legal issues and finance severance packages for layoffs.
Of all the ways that corporations have spent their profits recently, business investment has generally been low on the list. Higher wages have been even lower, if they make the list at all. It would be foolish to expect anything different if a new set of tax cuts increased corporations’ already healthy profits. Any advantages for middle-class Americans would amount to crumbs from the banquet table.
Then, too, there is the budget issue. Mr. Trump has proposed cutting the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, a point he emphasized on Wednesday despite warnings from his economic advisers that a cut that sizable would cause the deficit to explode. Separately, he and his advisers have also proposed ending taxation on the foreign profits of American corporations, even though such profits are often actually earned in the United States and simply relabeled as foreign through the use of complex accounting maneuvers.
Proposed tax breaks for working people, in contrast, include relatively modest reductions in tax rates, a more generous standard deduction and tax relief for child care expenses. A recent analysis of Mr. Trump’s proposals by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center generously assumed that policy makers would end popular write-offs, including the deduction for state taxes, to offset the cost of the cuts. Even then, the analysis showed that the proposed Trump tax cuts would lift after-tax income for the top 1 percent of taxpayers by at least 11.5 percent (or an average annual tax cut of $175,000), compared with a barely perceptible 1.3 percent for taxpayers in the middle (or $760 in average tax savings).
Over all, the cuts, paired with loophole closers, would cost at least $3.4 trillion in revenue in the first 10 years and $5.9 trillion over the following decade. The question is how House Republicans will deal with those potential deficits. Many of them have built their reputations as fiscal hawks. Even if they were inclined to set aside their professed aversion to deficits to pass a big tax cut, their scope for deficit financing has now been narrowed by the floods in Houston, which will force them to borrow and spend for relief and recovery efforts. That is a responsible thing to do in an emergency. Borrowing to cut taxes — akin to taking cash advances on a credit card — is not responsible, in good times or bad.
The fixation on tax cuts is regrettable, because corporate tax reform is a worthy goal. Done right, it would lower the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent or so, bringing it more in line with the rates of other developed nations. It would also raise revenue by eliminating special-interest loopholes and enacting a small per-trade tax on financial transactions to account for the growth of financial markets in the nation’s economy. As yet, there is no sign that Republicans are prepared to take that sensible path.

Harvey offers grim glimpse into climate’s future

By John Diaz
Amid the heartbreaking death and devastation inflicted by Hurricane Harvey were inspirational stories of the heroic efforts of people who put their own safety at risk to help others. But there also was a maddening element to the scenes out of Texas and Louisiana: This was a glimpse into a future that scientists have been warning about if climate change remains unchecked.
Under the Trump administration, the United States has been retreating when it should be leaning in to curb a human-aggravated phenomenon that is leading to a proliferation of what myriad scientific studies refer to as “extreme weather events.”
Houston is what an extreme weather event looks like. Harvey produced what is officially categorized as a 1,000-year flood, meaning that the chances are 1 in 1,000 of such a disaster occurring in any given year. Houston had a 500-year flood in each of the previous two years.
Was this a crazy statistical anomaly or the result of a changing climate?
Climatologists are always careful to note that it would be foolhardy to blame any individual weather disaster on climate change — just as it is silly to cite a particular cold spell to debunk concerns, as Donald Trump did in mocking global warming and declaring that “our planet is freezing” in January 2014.
In the case of Harvey, the destruction in the Houston area was no doubt magnified by urbanization that reduced the permeability of the land.
Still, the long-term warming pattern, and the significant contributions of carbon emissions to it, is undeniable to nearly all scientists who are not in league with the fossil-fuels industry. Average surface temperatures in 2016 were the warmest since record keeping began in 1880, surpassing the previous records set in 2015 and 2014.
Paul Ullrich, professor of regional and global climate modeling at UC Davis, said the “clear and upward trend” of global temperatures “can’t be attributed to anything other” than greenhouse gases resulting from human activity. John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, said it would be premature to try to calculate how much climate change intensified Harvey. Scientists will surely be “taking a closer look” at the impact, he noted in an email.
But the suspicions are there.
“Harvey wasn’t typical, but the same factors that lead to the observed increase in extreme rainfall would have been at work in Harvey too,” he wrote in an essay he forwarded. “Harvey’s air picked up moisture from sea surface temperatures that were running warm, in part because of the long-term climate trend. The atmosphere was supercharged with water vapor compared to what might have happened in a similar storm without warming seas.”
Dan Kammen, a renewable energy expert from UC Berkeley, agreed that a warmed Gulf of Mexico “unambiguously contributed to the massive dump of rainfall on land,” though calculating such influence was “one of the hardest scientific issues.” Ullrich agreed that the volume of precipitation in Harvey “has a climate-change signal in it.”
Its portent for the future is ominous.
“Harvey is entirely consistent and essentially predicted to become part of the new landscape of a climate-changed world,” said Kammen, who recently resigned as a science envoy to the State Department. He left out of disgust with President Trump’s tepid response to the rally of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.
Trump has long been contemptuous of climate-change warnings. He called it a Chinese plot to “make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive” (2012), “an expensive hoax” (2013) and flat-out proclaimed “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming” (2015).
As president, Trump has moved to reverse the progress President Barack Obama made in elevating this nation to a leadership role on climate. Most notably, Trump announced in June that the U.S. would withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord in which 195 nations pledged environmental action.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, arrived as a former Oklahoma attorney general who aggressively filed lawsuits to challenge EPA directives on climate and other issues. Now he is systematically rolling back regulations as he installs a climate-skeptic leadership team. On Monday, as a wide swath of Texas was submerged in floodwaters, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notified Congress that a special envoy for climate change would be eliminated as part of a department streamlining.
The U.S. response to a changing climate is going in the wrong direction, even as the dire consequences of inaction become plain.

Urdu Music Video - Sochti Hun - Afshan Zaibe

#Peshawar saved from huge destruction before Eid-ul-Azha

Capital City Peshawar Police in a joint Intelligence based targeted operation along with Pak Army at Regi Lalma area has saved Peshawar from huge destruction before Eid-ul-Azha by seizing heavy weapons besides arresting 87 criminals including some hardened. Addressing a press conference here on Friday, CCPO Peshawar, Muhammad Tahir Khan said, he issued directives for launching of operation in suburban Regi Lalma area of Peshawar.

The mid-night operation was led by SP Rural, Shafiullah Gandapure and SSP Sajjad Khan. In the operation 450 personnel of Police force, 120 personnel of Pak Army, Police commandos, elite force, intelligence agencies officials, BDU officials and ladies police participated in the operation. During operation modern investigation equipment and sniffer dogs were also used.

Heavy weapons were seized during the operation including 27 rocket launchers, 24 launcher shells, 17 hand grenades, 16 AK-F7 rifiles, 28 pistols, 9 7MM Rifles and others. About 87 criminals were arrested including some hardened due to their involvement in terrorist activities besides several facilitators. The Political Administration of Khyber Agency also cooperated in the operation by launching raids in villages of Khyber Agency on the border of Peshawar district.

Afghanistan - A Look At Ghani’s Multi-Pronged Pakistan Policy

Immediately after assuming office as president of Afghanistan, president Ashraf Ghani undertook the bold but controversial move of adopting a conciliatory approach toward Pakistan to secure Islamabad’s cooperation in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.
Over the past two years, Ghani has come up with several messages to Pakistan to persuade the neighboring nation to accomplish its responsibility in the fight against terrorism and brokering purposeful peace negotiation talks with the Taliban group.

In his latest message to Pakistan, Ghani reiterated calls to Pakistan to enter a political dialogue and to include peace with Pakistan at the top of the Afghanistan national agenda.
Sour relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have frequently made headlines and ties between the two countries have passed through major ups and downs over the course of time.

“Before this, Pakistan was dealing with Afghanistan as a marginalized point, Pakistan believed that if the Karachi port is closed, if Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings are closed, there would be screaming and shouting but the era of shouting and screaming has passed my brother,” said Ghani during a speech in Kabul four months ago.

But, on a different occasion, Ghani tried to draw red lines for Pakistan.

“Peace with Pakistan is meant that there is a strong, national and proud government working in Afghanistan and Pakistan needs to accept this reality, our governance should not be meant compromise,” said Ghani.

“Peace with Pakistan is now among Afghanistan’s national agenda, a dignified peace which is supposed to be restored through political channels,” said Ghani in his Eid message on Friday.

But analysts have different views of Ghani’s Pakistan policy.

“Undoubtedly, pressure by the US, NATO and pressure by the Afghan government will finally force Pakistan to surrender to the restoration of peace in the region,” said university lecturer Hekmatullah Shahbaz.

“In the new strategy, the US has supported Afghanistan and this would be in the interests of Afghanistan, we hope that the terrorists, terrorists’ backers and sponsors are suppressed within the framework of the new strategy,” said civil society activist Laila Jaffari.

Trump’s new war strategy for Afghanistan was widely welcomed in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has said that it was hopeful that the new strategy will open a new chapter of bilateral ties between the United States and Afghanistan in the future and these will also have a beneficial impact on the regional situation.

Constitutionality of escalating war in Afghanistan

By Dr. Harold Pease
Few presidential candidates in the last seven years have campaigned more for pulling out of Afghanistan then Donald Trump so his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, 16 years after it began, is a shock to many who are tired of the globalist no-win and perpetual warfare, and in part voted for him to end it. His words resonated with most, “Afghanistan is a total and complete disaster.” In another, “Are they going to be there for the next 200 years?” In another, the U.S. had “wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure.” And another, “What are we doing there? These people hate us … We’re a debtor nation. We can’t build our own schools, yet we build schools in Afghanistan.”
All of this remains true and irrefutable, even though Trump said that viewing this war from the Oval Office prompted his reversal. War Hawk Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, former political enemies, now love him as do many globalists. His having surrounded himself with generals, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and James Mattis (more military influence in the White House than in decades) is said to have influenced this change. Certainly “the industrial military complex,” as warned by Eisenhower before leaving office in 1961, is well in place around him.
The Afghanistan War has cost us over a trillion dollars in treasure and 3,539 coalition soldiers and is now the longest war in U.S. history. Nothing in the Trump Presidential Speech of Aug. 21, changes any of this. Adding some 4,000 new U.S. soldiers to the 8,400 presently there, together with another 6,000 from NATO countries, is not likely to change what 16 years and two prior presidents could not.
But all of this would change if prior presidents of both political parties, and now Trump, took their oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” seriously (Art. 2, Sec. 1, Cla. 8). Military powers are housed under the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clauses 9-17). These include all power to declare and finance war, raise armies, “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” and even determine the land that the military can use for training purposes. Nothing was omitted. Under the Constitution there can never be an unpopular war as the peoples’ representative (The House of Representatives) have total power over raising and funding the army. They must consent to the war by declaration (because they provide blood and brawn for it) and they alone authorize the treasure for it. “All bills for raising revenue shall originate” with them (Art. 1, Sec. 7, Cla. 1).
Moreover, Congress was to monitor the war at two-year intervals through its power of the purse just described. “But no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years” (Art. I, Sec. 8, Cla. 12). If Congress is not happy with the progress of the war it can require the generals to account for why total victory has not yet been obtained and reduce or enlarge funding, with time restraints, to keep officers focused — even the president — and on a short lease with respect to the war declared.
Why did the president get none of this power? Because he “had the most propensity for war,” James Madison argued in the Constitutional Convention. Kings traditionally had sole power over the lives of their subjects. Not so under the Constitution. One man would never have such power. A declaration of war gave clarity to its beginning with victory or defeat its only ending. It could never be a casual thing as it is now.
In Afghanistan war transcended from attacking, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them. In fact, today it remains uncertain as to which nation is most responsible for 9 11. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers flying into the World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings on that infamous day were Saudi nationals, as was Osama bin Laden. The country of Iraq had nothing to do with the attack, but received the first missiles in retaliation. Certainly Al-Qaeda dominated Afghanistan, but Saudi Arabia, who funded Al-Qaeda, got off scot-free.
The only constitutional power left by our Founders to the president is as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States… ,” notice this, “when called into actual Service of the United States,” which can only be done by Congress(Art. II, Sec. 2, Cla. 1). Otherwise the military functioned under Congress, not the president. The president’s power to make war (outside immediate self-defense as in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) can only follow the legislature’s power to authorize war. Congress declared war on Japan the following day.
There was no declaration of war by Congress on Afghanistan (or any other country since World War II) calling into “actual service” the military. Nor is there a specific two-year funding limitation on war as constitutionally required. Moreover, Congress clearly has been nullified in making the “rules for the government and regulation of land and naval forces” in this no-end conflict.
Recent presidents have usurped all of the military powers of Congress unto themselves and Trump is doing the same. It is a dangerous slippery slope and clearly exceeds constitutional authority regardless of who inhabits the White House.
To read more of Dr. Harold Pease’s weekly articles, visit


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Answer from Patrick Dugan, Product Designer:
The American military effort in Afghanistan is now in its sixteenth year. To put that into context, a number of the soldiers, Marines, and airmen we will send into the Afghan theater two years from now will have been born after 9/11.

The American military initially entered Afghanistan with a lightweight force compromised of mostly special forces with the expressed intention of eliminating Al-Qaeda operatives operating inside of the country.
While we were able to do this very well, the larger issue is and always has been that Afghanistan has always been an ungovernable state. You can’t remove a power broker like Al-Qaeda without replacing it with some form of government, and to date every government the American’s have propped up inside of Afghanistan has been inherently corrupt.
A summary of what happens next is:
  • American military resources are then largely pulled out of the country and into Iraq.
  • While focusing on Iraq, American forces continue to prop up a series of corrupt government leaders who have little or no ability to govern a number of villages and provinces across Afghanistan.
  • In the power vacuum we created and with our attention focused elsewhere, Al-Qaeda re-enters Afghanistan in force and begins flipping provinces back to their control.
Enter: President Obama, his surge, and Stanley McChrystal.
President Obama assumes office in 2008 and quickly realizes the situation in Afghanistan is spiraling out of control. In 2009, at the urging of his military advisors, Obama begins pouring troops into the country.

Obama increases the American military footprint inside Afghanistan from around 30,000 when he assumes office to more than 100,000 troops at the peak in 2011.
The commanding officer in the Afghan theater, General McChrystal, is an advocate of COIN, or Counter-insurgency operations which involve clearing and holding territory. In the middle of the surge, McChrystal is unceremoniously fired for bad mouthing the President to a Rolling Stone reporter who later wrote the now infamous article, The Runaway General.
The surge, while resulting in modest gains, is largely deemed a failure. President Obama, acutely aware of this failure, proceeds with large-scale troop drawdowns.
Today, neither President Trump nor his military advisors have articulated what they would consider victory in Afghanistan to look like, which is a pretty important thing to have clearly defined when you are creating a strategy for military operations. In terms of paths forwards, our options are limited and the potential outcomes of those paths are bleak.
In one path forward, we pull all American and allied troops out of Afghanistan. In doing this, Afghanistan once again becomes a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and terrorist groups as if we were never there at all, and Iran continues to gain influence in the country.
In another path forward, America maintains a large-scale military presence in Afghanistan for decades to come (not dissimilar to our military presence in countries like Japan, South Korea, or Germany). The key difference here is that overseas military presences are only considered acceptable by the larger American citizenry as long as our deployed forces aren't continuously blown apart by Improvised Explosive Devices. However, in order for that to happen, the country in which our forces are deployed needs a functioning government which is something Afghanistan will never have.
In a third, albeit unlikely path forward, traditional American military forces pull out of Afghanistan and are replaced with privately controlled security contractors. This is plan that has been proposed by the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince. In such a scenario, you would likely see a dramatic uptick in incidents like the Nisour Square massacre. The likely long term effects of handing the country over to private security forces is a rapid acceleration in the number of terrorists and combatants who take up arms against America.
What are the major schools of thought about what the US should do regarding Afghanistan? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on TwitterFacebook, and Google+. More questions:  

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The mind of an extremist

By Dr S Zulfiqar Gilani
Extremists are sometimes mistaken for terrorists. However, we should know that many extremists do not engage in suicide bombings or terrorism, but exhibit an extremist mindset through their conduct and views. These include fanatics, bigots, misogynists, etc. They personify, breed and preach extremist views, and many are also associated with terrorism and suicide bombings. Regardless of the apparent differences in their overt actions, all extremists have notable similarities in their psychological makeup.
One needs to keep in mind that like all psychological phenomena, the extremist mindset is also a continuum and an individual extremist may lie anywhere along that. No one is a ‘perfect’ extremist and most ordinary individuals also exhibit streaks of extremism.
The psychological profile of an extremist includes the following: s/he lacks the quality of empathy. They feel that the others have no right to hold different views and are convinced that those with different views are misguided, ignorant or evil. So, the differing ones need to be shown the right path and/or punished. The extremist is highly passionate about his/her own views and denounces the ‘different’ with equal passion. They have very strong feelings for or against persons, issues or ideas. They either demonise or idealise. To them, things are either black or white. They cannot recognise the reality that there are shades of grey in most things and all humans have some combination of good and bad.
Extremists are incapable of dispassionately examining the basis of their views and beliefs. They deny concrete evidence or information that contradicts their views and beliefs and only accept that information which confirms and reinforces them. Hence, there is little scope for change in their views.
It seems that the preaching of extreme views and engagement in extreme behaviour becomes addictive. Whenever the extremist indulges in such behaviour, positive emotions are experienced. As their behaviours are emotionally rewarding, it results in an addiction to them. Thus, over time the certainty of their beliefs gets stronger as does their conviction in the rightness of their actions.
This mindset is an outcome of dynamic unconscious processes. Although unconscious psychological processes influence everyone’s behaviour, they are far more powerful in the psyche of the extremist and the primary determinant of their behaviour.
The extremist represses such disturbing or threatening thoughts and feelings which would cause severe guilt if they became conscious. So, a tight lid is unconsciously kept on those ‘unwanted’ feelings and the individual remains consciously unaware of their existence. However, the repressed thoughts and desires continue to generate anxiety and other unconscious mechanisms come into play to cope with that anxiety.
The mind of an extremist also blocks such concrete evidence from awareness which could contradict or raise questions about their views and beliefs. Finally, unconscious impulses, usually aggression, are redirected onto a powerless substitute target.
Like all of us, extremists are also social beings and the sustenance of their extremist psyche is linked with the social group/s to which they belong. As groups tend to arrive at more extreme positions than any individual members would on their own, the individual extremist’s position becomes stronger and more extreme due to membership of an extremist group or groups. Groups also tend to become less similar to other groups, which leads to dehumanising members of other groups leading to an us-and-them mentality, and the conviction that acts of violence against ‘others’ are justified.
The mind of an extremist develops in the same manner as that of any other individual. The only difference is in the psychosocial conditions in which they are raised and live.