The western frontier

The powers that be need to find a way to prevent the fight in Syria from spreading to SAsia. Iran and Pakistan must engage in confidence building exercise, it will be a very nice gesture on behalf of Pakistan to get the (5) Iranian guards released safely and returned home. If the western frontier goes up in flames the suffering of aam aadmi in Baluchistan and elsewhere will reach a crisis point (if it has not already done so).

In the immediate aftermath of the kidnappings, the Iranian government
expressed indignation at the Pakistan government for its failure to do more to
curb the tide of Sunni Islamists in the country. Iranian Interior
Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli went so far as to threaten to send
Iranian troops into Pakistan to secure the border guards’ release.

This prompted Islamabad to respond by saying, “Iranian forces have no
authority to cross our borders in violation of the international law. We must
respect each other’s borders.”
It also added, “The government of Pakistan
regrets the suggestions of negligence on its part over the incident, especially
when Pakistan’s active support against terrorists groups in the past is
well-known and acknowledged by Iran.”

A more serious flashpoint between Pakistan and Iran is taking place farther
away in Syria. Specifically, numerous media outlets and private intelligence
firms have confirmed that recent Pakistani-Saudi Arabian defense cooperation
meetings have been aimed at reaching an agreement whereby Riyadh would purchase
military arms from Islamabad for Syrian opposition forces.
to the reports, Saudi funds will be used to purchase Chinese
shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles
—among other
weapons—that will be smuggled into Syria via Jordan.

Such a deal would place Pakistan and Iran closer to direct confrontation as
Iranian troops and their Hezbollah allies have long been operating in Syria in
an effort to shore up the Bashar al-Assad government. Should Pakistani supplied
arms bring down an Iranian transport plane, for example, Tehran would be hard
pressed not to retaliate against Pakistan in some fashion.



“jab sab faansi par latkaye jaege”

Right now the situation in India is desperate. Even in the so-called woman-safe Mumbai, ladies are being molested in broad daylight. We have all become passive observers even when injustice happens in front of our eyes, because we are deadly afraid of …what exactly? Death will come to all of us some day, it is really the fear of death that stops us from helping out a (wo)man in distress.

I am not in favor of death penalty because the system can always make mistakes and we should not have to lose even one innocent man. That said these folks deserve no mercy and should never again see the light of freedom.

The Delhi high
court on Thursday upheld the death sentence awarded to the four convicts in
the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl here on December 16, 2012
that shook the nation’s conscience and led to widespread protests.

A bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani confirmed the sentence of
Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh, saying the offense
committed by them falls in the category of rarest of the rare and upheld their

“Death reference is accepted. Death sentence awarded by the trial court is
affirmed. The appeals of the convicts are dismissed,” the bench said.

The parents of the victim were also present in the court at the time of
pronouncement of the verdict.
“We have got full faith in the judiciary. We had expected this verdict.
But the ultimate satisfaction will be when the convicts meet to their ultimate
fate,” the mother of the 23-year-old paramedic told the media outside
court room after the verdict was delivered.

“Hume pura nayay tabhi milega jab sab faansi par latkaye jaege (We will
get justice only when all of them will be hanged),” she said.



MH 370 horror story

Where is that plane? It can be in Australia, Korea, Pakistan, anywhere? God this is scary.

investigators suspect the missing Malaysian airliner was in the air for
four hours after its last confirmed contact, and may have been diverted
to an unknown location, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

It said US aviation investigators and national security officials are
basing their theory on data automatically downloaded and sent to the
ground from the Boeing 777’s Rolls-Royce engines, which suggested the plane flew for a total of five hours.

The WSJ attributed the information to two unidentified sources
“familiar with the details”. Contacted by AFP, Rolls-Royce in Singapore
said it could not comment on an ongoing investigation.



Devyani and Sangeeta

This may help (not likely) put a lid over the ugliness but India will need to watch-out about the other maid/victims who are off-shore with diplomatic personnel.  
The choice is to make them (Indian) govt employees with a special paygrade to avoid exploitation compalints, or even better …. get rid of the entire sordid arrangement.

Also, now that Sangeeta is free from both the clutches of both (uncaring) employer and (uncaring) husband, it is to be hoped that her new home-land will be able to provide for her (and her children) a rewarding and fulfilling future.
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade whose arrest and strip-search spurred an
international flap had charges against her dismissed by a US court on

The US district judge’s ruling said that Devyani Khobragade had
diplomatic immunity when she was indicted on charges of fraudulently obtaining
a work visa for her housekeeper and lying about the maid’s pay

suggested they might refile the charges stemming from claims she exploited her housekeeper

In a new twist to the India-US row involving Indian diplomat Devyani
Khobragade, the domestic help, who was at the centre of the controversy, and
her husband have filed for divorce citing differences between them.

Philip Richard, the husband of Khobragade’s help Sangeeta, and their
children were flown to New York by the US Embassy in Delhi on trafficking visas
days before Khobragade was arrested on charges of visa fraud in December.

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Richard said he was disappointed
with what he called the way his wife started to lie to him and the couple
decided to part ways. They filed for divorce in January, he said, but added
that he would continue to defend his wife against Khobragade’s allegations.

“She stopped telling me where she is going and with whom. She started to
lie. She said something and did just the opposite. But I still support her in
the case against Devyani as I know she is not at fault there,” Richard said.



Kashmir: the avalanche season

Official sources told The Hindu that Naik Vijay Pratap and
Dharmendra Singh of the Army were killed when their shed collapsed under
an avalanche at their camp at Batra in Drass area of Kargil. Three
Nepalese workers died when their stone quarrying site caved in near
Kargil due to heavy snowfall.

A Gujjar family’s hutment collapsed at Balsaran in Damhal Hanjipora
foothills of Pir Panjal mountain range, killing three inmates — Rashid
Gorsi (24), Talib Gorsi (12) and Altaf Gorsi. Nine members of the family
sustained injuries and were evacuated. Three women — Rehti of Manigam Qazigund, Jana of Badipora Chadoora and Fazi of Kansu Shopian —died when their houses collapsed. Manzoor Ahmad of Kadalbal Pampore, who was on his way from Ramsu to
Ramban, was killed in a landslip in Panthal on Srinagar-Jammu highway.

About 100 people have been evacuated from Waltengo Naar and other
hamlets of the Pir Panjal foothills to safer places in Kulgam, Anantnag,
Shopian and Rajouri districts. Sources said that over 200 cattle
perished in different incidents. 

Explosion felt like 9/11, earth-quake, World War II

Total 8 dead, 60+ injured, and some people (numbers unknown) missing
The World War reference is likely from watching TV (the lady is only 30 years old).

What must be a minor miracle that a total of 15 apartments were wiped out and only (8) dead…yet. But also this, it is not common knowledge that gas explosions can be this lethal. 
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called
the incident “a tragedy of the worst kind” and warned a number of
people were still unaccounted for, raising fears of possible further losses.

Firefighters battled throughout the afternoon to extinguish the heavy fire
in East Harlem, where witnesses compared the scene of twisted metal, thick
white smoke and dusty rubble to a war zone.

The explosion sparked inevitable reminders for some New Yorkers of the 9/11
terror attacks in 2001 that brought down the Twin Towers. Other witnesses said
it felt like an earthquake.

There were 15 apartments in the two buildings that collapsed, de Blasio and
city officials told reporters near the scene at 116th Street and Park Avenue, a
mainly Latino community.
Around 15 minutes before the blast, energy company Con
Edison received a call from an adjoining apartment building alerting
maintenance staff to the smell of gas. The explosion struck around 9:30 am
(1330 GMT) and the New York Fire Department said firefighters were on the scene
two minutes later.

Four different hospitals told AFP
they treated a total of 63 patients, the vast majority with minor injuries.

A spokesman for Mount Sinai said 22 people, including three children, were
treated. Nineteen were discharged. One woman was “critical but
stable” with a head trauma and two other people were still being evaluated
in the emergency room, the spokesman said.
The New York City Health and
Hospitals Corporation tweeted that its Harlem and Metropolitan Hospitals
received a total of 30 patients who suffered a variety of injuries. A
spokeswoman for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital said that doctors received 11
patients, with 10 still under evaluation.

Jazzmen Arzuaga, 30, said she was at work at a hospital when her wife rang
to tell her what had happened. “She called me and told me ‘Oh my God, you
need to come home now, it’s like World War II, people are dying, there was an
explosion.’ I just literally ran,” she said.
The couple live across the
street from the blast. Arzuaga’s wife Jay Virgo, also 30, said she was lying in
bed when the blast threw her to the floor. “There was glass everywhere,
huge pieces of glass. It just looked crazy,” she said.

Con Edison confirmed that a resident reported smelling gas inside the
apartment building at 1652 Park Avenue. “Our crews are checking our gas
lines and working to isolate any leaks that they find and they’re working
closely with the FDNY to make the area safe,” company spokesman Bob McGee



A giant leap back (for woman kind)

This is a (admittedly narrow) look at certain aspects of civil laws currently in vogue in India and in Pakistan as it impacts on marriage in discriminatory ways.

In India personal laws concerning muslims are mostly regressive. Thus you have the ridiculous spectacle of a (hindu) deputy chief minister of Haryana converting to Islam in order to get married for the second time to a (hindu) lady who also converted for this purpose and then subsequently dumping her (talaq decree via SMS) to go back to his first wife, which led to the lady committing suicide. This is just wrong on so many levels that it simply makes my blood boil.

How about Pakistan? My impression is (based on limited knowledge) that Pakistani laws are far more protective of women’s rights – in this case for muslims, but not for christians who have to prove adultery by spouse in order to win a divorce.

All of this may fit into a pattern of non-interference in minority affairs but that claim is again….simply ridiculous. Both India and Pakistani society would not think twice before harming minorities, killing people and destroying property, but personal laws are somehow a red line? If we are that concerned about minorities, India should pass the communal violence bill and Pakistan should withdraw the blasphemy law.

Two examples where Pak laws are clearly superior- (a) the minimum age of marriage (for women) is sixteen, which is not defined by puberty [ref. wiki], and (b) if men want to marry a second time they have to take permission from the first wife [ref. article below].

That was then, the future however looks pretty bleak due to the pronouncements by the Council of Islamic Ideology that current marriage rules are not in compliance with Sharia. All the carefully thought out compromises for the original bill (not to mention international obligations on child marriage) will now be discarded on the say so of the CII. 

The PPP human rights cell has raised its voice in opposition (full credit to them) and the comments section is almost uniformly dismissive of what the CII is proposing. It restores one’s faith in humanity for a few nano-seconds before you realize that PPP is now a minor regional party and the DAWN readership is probably not representative of mainstream thought in Pakistan today. Thus game, set and match for Maulana Sheerani. It is indeed a proud day for him and he will be savoring a (not so) hard-earned victory.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) concluded its 191th
meeting, here Tuesday with the ruling that the laws related to minimum
age of marriage were un-Islamic and that children of any age could get
married if they attain puberty.

At the conclusion of two day meeting, Chairman CII Maulana Muhammad
Khan Sheerani n
oted that the laws related to marriage too were unfair
and there cannot be any age of marriage.  

However, he explained that there were two segments of marriage – nikah and ruksati, while nikah could be performed at any age.“Even
the minors can have nikah but that has to be executed by the
guardians,” chairman CII said adding, “But ruksti could be executed only
after attaining the age of puberty.”

He said that the age of
puberty varies from individuals to individuals and it was the
responsibility of guardians to have ruksati soon the child attains the
age of puberty.
“The laws limiting the age for both the segments of marriage are unIslamic and needed to be rectified,” he added.

The officials were asked if the
international conventions signed by Pakistan related to child marriage
would be violated after this ruling by CII.
Responding to the
query the official said that the international conventions cannot be in
contradiction to the constitution of the country or Islam and if they
were, those particular clauses would not apply on Pakistan.

The CII had on earlier day suggested the government to change Muslim marriage laws as it required Muslim male to seek permission from the previous wife or wives for another marriage.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) human rights cell has expressed concern over the CII rulings. “Why
is Council concerned with men’s four marriages and why have they done
nothing to ensure that women get their property as enshrined in Islamic
Law? Or why have they failed to stop practices such as vani, swara and
karo kari? Or stop rape, and acid crimes against women?”
asked Dr Nafisa
Shah, coordinator PPP’s human rights cell.  

“Unfortunately Islam
has been misinterpreted over a period of time by a mindset and a
particular school of thought. Islam and modernism are compatible
provided progressive scholars interpret the religion,”
she added. The
PPP human rights cell has called upon the government to include
progressive Islamic scholars in the council so that women’s rights and
the rights of all are protected.



The Tusker named Ganesha

Sounds too good to be true, but then elephants are funny creatures (and this is not the first time this has happened, see below).
At least it is heartening to know that the baby has survived the attack and is out of danger.

The bad news is that elephant and their habitats are under siege (from villagers locally and Chinese globally).   
Will there be any wild life left by the time this baby grows up? Ganesha will then live only in paintings and temples. That will be a profound tragedy.

A tusker
smashed a house to bits in a village in West Bengal’s Purulia district on
Monday night but when it heard a 10-month-old baby crying under the debris, it
turned back and carefully removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar
from the infant’s body before heading back to the forest.

…Mother Lalita Mahato said: “We
worship Lord Ganesh (the elephant god) in our village. Still, I can’t believe
that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a
wall. We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her.
It’s a miracle.”

The child’s father, Dipak Mahato, said they were having dinner around 8pm when
they suddenly heard a “cracking sound” and then a huge crash from the
bedroom. “We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a
tusker standing over our baby. She was crying and there were huge chunks of the
wall lying all around and on the cot,” he said. “The tusker started
moving away but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its
trunk to remove the debris.”

They took the girl to Deben Mahato Sadar Hospital. She has some external
injuries from the debris falling on her but is not in danger. Hospital
superintendent Neelanjana Sen said the infant is stable but they will keep her
under observation for 48 hours.

A similar incident had been reported in Jalpaiguri’s Madarihat about six months
ago when an elephant herd carefully removed a little girl from harm’s way
before smashing several houses.



Many of us are likely to suffer from dementia as we drink, breathe and wallow in an ever more poisonous environment (SAsians more than most). It is imperative to be able to predict this condition in advance. Once the tell-tale signs are confirmed, we can go out and have a gala party, sign off on the will (please do that anyway), take a boat out to the sea and…jump in with the fishes.

Only one small question: 90% accuracy sounds very impressive (also likely to improve over time), but is it??

study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, identified 10
molecules in blood could be used to predict with at least 90% accuracy
whether people will go on to develop mild cognitive impairment or

“The lipid panel was able to distinguish with
90% accuracy these two distinct groups: cognitively normal participants
who would progress to MCI or AD within two to three years, and those who
would remain normal in the near future,”
said one of the study’s
authors, Professor Howard Federoff.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at
the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “Having such a test would be an
interesting development, but it also throws up ethical considerations. “If
this does develop in the future people must be given a choice about
whether they would want to know, and fully understand the implications.