Thursday, November 12, 2009

News In Brief

U.S. Officer Protests America’s Strategy In Afghanistan, Resigns

Protesting to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, a key U.S. officer in the war-torn country has resigned from his post, reported Washington Post.

Matthew Hoh- a political officer in the foreign service and a senior civilian officer in Zabul, Afghanistan- in a four-page letter to Ambassador Nancy Powell, director general of the foreign service at the State Department expressed his "doubts and reservations” about U.S. “current strategy and planned future strategy” in Afghanistan.

The smart civil-military Hoh had joined the Foreign Service early this year. A former Marine Corps captain with combat six-year experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

Matthew, 36, submitted his letter of resignation on Sept. 10 because he doesn't agree with the U.S. mission in the country.

"I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there," Hoh said. "I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them...not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they're fighting us is because we are occupying them."

Hoh has become the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end," Hoh reportedly said.

According to Post the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, and Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, tried to talk Hoh out of resigning. The latter even offered him a job but Hoh declined.
Hoh wants people to know that stabilizing the Afghan government doesn't equate to defeating al Qaeda. He is reported to have said, "If that's our goal, to defeat al Qaeda, we need to change our strategy... We are still fighting them the way we would have fought in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and we need to change. We need to evolve to actually fight this threat so that we can affect it."

Our Friend U.S. Says!

Pakistan not involved in 26/11

It has come as a shock to India as an expert of U.S.-the country in the fore front of the war against the so-called terrorism- has given clean chit to Pakistan as regards its involvement in 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Speaking in a conference recently held in Bangalore, Dr. Rodney Jones, president, Policy Architects International (PAI), USA said, “Though there is evidence that Pakistanis are involved, the evidence of Pakistan government’s involvement in 26/11 is not strong enough.”
PAI is a private research, consulting and advisory services organization that concentrates on services needed in international policy areas, including international security, energy security and Asian development issues among others.

Nevertheless, Mr. S. Gopal, former special secretary to the Cabinet Secretariat who also spoke at the venue, countered this by saying “It is unbelievable that the Pakistan Intelligence was unaware of the plotting and training that went behind last year’s attack.”

Your Presence In Afghanistan Upsets Us

In an indication of how deep the US’ concerns run over the Indian presence in Afghanistan upsetting Pakistan, its key ally in the war on terror, the head of Policy Architects International, USA Dr. Rodney Jones said India was, “right to be in Afghanistan” but its presence was “upsetting Pakistan.”

Dr. Jones was speaking in a seminar on “The Taliban Resurgence and the Global Terror Overhang”. He added that Indian consulates were being used to “gather intelligence” and that in the aftermath of the suicide bomb attack on its embassy in Kabul, Delhi should step up security over its missions.

Gifts Worth Over Rs 50,000 In The Tax Net Now

The Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT) has announced that all the gifts worth over Rs 50,000 in kind- like property, gold, diamond etc. - will be taxed effective from 1 October, 2009.
Making amendments to the Income Tax Act 1961 (the Act), the value of such gifts will now be added to the individual’s annual income and taxed as per the income tax slab rates.

Therefore, any such person who receives a gift of any such property on or after October 1, 2009 must pay the income tax due on the value of the gift and disclose the taxable value of such property in the return of income for assessment year 2010-11 and subsequent years.

However, certain categories of gifts have been exempted from the ambit of the gift tax. These include gifts from a person who is a relative, wedding gifts, gifts given under a will or by way of inheritance, gifts in contemplation of death of the donor, gifts from any local authority, those from any fund or trust, and gifts from registered trusts or institutions.
The act defines relative to include spouse, brother or sister, brother or sister of the spouse, brother or sister of either of the parents, any lineal ascendant or descendant and spouse of any of the relative of the individual.

Prior to this amendment, the government has been imposing tax on gifts exceeding Rs 25,000 since April 2004. Later, the Act was amended with effect from April 1, 2006 to tax all cash gifts having aggregate value exceeding Rs 50,000.

If There Is A Scam There Is ISKCON

ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Bangalore has once again come in the limelight for its alleged involvement in an illegal sale of mid-day meal.

The recent trouble of the society started when the Food and Civil Supplies Department raided Kanyakumari Kalyana Mantapa at Kengunte Circle and ‘identified’ 4,000 quintals of rice stocked there.

D.K. Shivakumar, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Working President said that the rice supplied by the State Government and meant for mid-day meal scheme, was there for sale.
“One kg of rice costs between Rs. 25 and Rs. 35 in the market but we were told it was available for Rs. 15 a kg at the marriage hall. We went to check and found that rice provided by the State Government for the midday meal scheme was being illegally sold there,” Mr. Hanumanthappa, a local Congress leader alleged.

Hanumanthappa also attributed to the manager of the godown to have said that rice belonged to ISKCON and was offered to sell them.

However, ISKCON claimed that it had stored the rice procured from Food Corporation of India, and it was meant for feeding children under Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) -run by ISKCON to provide mid-day meal in government schools. The society said that it had stored the rice in the rented godown due to the shortage of space and that it had submitted a letter to the chief executive officer, Zilla Parishad, Bangalore seeking permission to store the rice in the premises. However, it did not say whether it got permission from the government to ‘stock’ rice in its new godown.

APF’s trustee P V Mohandas termed all the allegations “a pack of lies” and said that every single grain is accounted for and all accounts are given scrutiny.
The government reportedly has set up a House panel, headed by BJP MLA Yogesh Bhat, to look into the charges by Congress workers.

Meanwhile, principal secretary (food and civil supplies) Madan Gopal assured of action as per the rules after an investigation. “The local deputy commissioner would take appropriate action after a probe,” said Minister for food and civil supplies H Halappa.

1,800 Jewish Maids In Kuwait

There are about 1,800 Jewish maids working in Kuwaiti households, reports Alam Alyawm daily quoting Interior Ministry sources.

The same sources said these maids are citizens of India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. The sources also warned such maids practice black magic and may have allegiance to Israel.
They thoughts and opinions may also constitute a danger to Muslim families - either Kuwaiti or expatriate - and may have an ill effect on our children. The sources added the origin of most of these maids is believed to be Falasha (Falasha Mura are the descendants of Beta Israel who converted to Christianity.

Judiciary Not Free From Corruption: Former CJI

Terming charges against Karnataka high court chief justice PD Dinakaran as "very unfortunate", a former CJI today said the allegations will damage the image of entire judiciary but maintained that it was not free from corruption. Justice KN Singh said that as a member of judiciary and former chief justice of India, he felt sad to hear the allegations against Dinakaran.

The lawyers of Bangalore and Chennai started levelling charges against Dinakaran that he had grabbed land in Tamil Nadu in violation of the land ceiling laws, ever since the reports came of justice Dinakaran being elevated to the Supreme Court.

"....Higher judiciary does not suffer with that kind of corruption which is so prevalent in other departments of administration," Singh said on the debate on corruption in judiciary in general.

He added that there might be one or two incidents here and there but judiciary was not free from corruption, and one or two instances would not be sufficient to hold that judiciary is a corruption institution.

Justice Singh who did not know Dinakaran in person nor did he know the details of the allegations said that if media reports were true then, ‘it will certainly damage the constitutional office of chief justice as well as it will damage the image of the entire judiciary in the country," he said.

Veeraiah Arrested For Marrying Five Women

A 48-year old man who had married five women was arrested by Chickaballapur police on September 15.

According to a report appearing in daily “The Hindu” the police initiated legal action against Veeraiah, a resident of Manchanabele on the outskirts of Chickaballapur, after three of his five wives filed a complaint against him in the Chickaballapur Rural police station.

“As it was a non-cognisable case, the police have sought the permission of the jurisdictional court to register a case and proceed against Veeraiah,” the Chickaballapur Circle Police Inspector Shiva Kumar said.

The police along with questioning Veeraiah interrogated Nagaraj, a marriage broker, who had helped him find three brides.

According to the police, Veeraiah would approach middle aged women from poor families and claim he was a rich landlord, although he was jobless, and marry them.

“Around 20 years ago, he (Veeraiah) first married Anasuyamma of Vemagal in Kolar district and deserted her after a few years. Subsequently, he married Revamma of Kortagere, Lakshmamma of Kunigal and Mamatha of Gubbi, all in Tumkur district. Three months ago, he married Manjula of Doddaballapur in Bangalore Rural district. He has four children, two of whom are college students, from his three wives and the youngest child was three-months-old,” the police have been quoted as saying.

A few days ago, Veeraiah lodged a complaint with the Chickaballapur Rural police that his wife Lakshmamma had tortured him and thrown him out of house.
Later, Lakshmamma and Veeraiah’s two other wives lodged a complaint against him.

Taliban Are Paid To Not Attack NATO Forces!

In an astonishing revelation The Times newspaper has written that the Italian forces, once deployed in Afghanistan under NATO umbrella, had struck a secret deal with Taliban for peace.
According to The Times, the Italian secret service gave tens of thousands of dollars to Taliban commanders and local warlords to keep the peace in the Sarobi region, near Kabul.

The Italian government, however, has described the British newspaper's report as "totally baseless" and said it had "never authorised any kind of money payment to members of the Taliban insurrection in Afghanistan".

But a senior officer reportedly said that they were aware that Italian forces were paying the opposition in Sarobi not to attack them. “It's a deal: you don't attack me; I don't attack you," he said, adding the practice was passed on between foreign forces and it was likely that senior commanders were either involved or turned a blind eye to it. It is simply a matter of buying time and surviving."

NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, General Eric Tremblay, said he was "not aware" of such practices and had no information about the Italian case.

Italian forces are not alone. According to one Western military source, payments were made by Canadian soldiers stationed in the violent southern province of Kandahar, while another officer spoke of similar practices by the German army in northern Kunduz.

More than 50 per cent of NATO forces deployed in rural Afghanistan are believed to have such deals in order to ensure peace.

Saudi Arabia Plans Border Fence To Stem Flow Of Militants

Saudi Arabia plans to build a high-tech fence system costing billions of dollars with night cameras, heat sensors and air & sea surveillance to seal off the Kingdom’s border which reportedly have long been fertile ground for smugglers as well as militants.

“Smugglers know the region ... They try to exploit times such as night, rainfall or fog when visibility is low,” said a border guard.

In a three-month period last year, the Saudi newspaper Okaz said border police seized rocket-propelled grenades, more than 100 guns and nearly 100 sticks of dynamite. Saudi officials fear that many more weapons may be getting through.

A diplomat said smugglers have been trying to marry into families living in the border region, while some analysts believe Al-Qaeda uses the same strategy to form bonds with Yemeni tribes.
Analysts say that building such a border system will not only take years, require hundreds of contractors and advanced technology to cover remote caves and passes but conditions will also test equipment to limits.

Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Naif said in November 2006 that building of the Iraqi fence would start in 2007, adding that the project would cost SR45 billion ($12 billion). He said the fence would have 135 gates with advanced monitoring systems. The construction would be completed in record time of less than three years. However, the proposed fence along the Kingdom’s southern border with Yemen was expected to take more time because of the difficult terrain.

While the Saudi side of the Alb crossing is well-organized with several lanes and check points for cars, the same cannot be expected from the Yemeni side which suffers from poor communications.

Parts of Saudi Arabia’s borders with Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates touch the Empty Quarter, a remote sand desert without major roads or towns. The northern border to Iraq, where Saudi Arabia hopes to have a first fence section in place by the end of the year, also lies in desert. It is hoped the high-tech offensive will end a long tradition of smuggling and illegal crossing by tribes.

Saving 'Gau Mata' Is Saving The Nation: MM Joshi

Senior BJP leader Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has called for the protection of the original breed of Indian cow and urged the entire country to ban cow-slaughter as did Gujarat.

He said this while releasing a special 'Vishwa Mangal Gau Gram Yatra' issue of the monthly magazine 'Hindu Samwad'. Adding, Joshi said that the ancient Hindu culture provided for not only the protection of the holy cow but also its worship.

Calling the saving of Gau Mata tantamount to ‘saving the nation’ Joshi said ‘In fact, saving the cow is saving the nation as not only its milk is important and useful for the human being but also its urine, which has medicinal value.’

The Varanasi MP asserted that it has been scientifically proved that cow is environmentally the most compatible animal.

He quipped, ‘When Gujarat government could ban the cow-slaughter then why can't the entire country do the same?’Joshi is reported to have said.

Iraq says 85,000 violently killed

Just over 85,000 Iraqis were killed in Iraq between 2004 and 2008, according to the first estimate from the Iraqi government since the war began.

The figure is based on death certificates issued by the ministry of health and included 15,000 unidentified bodies. It counts violent deaths of military, police and civilians, but does not include foreigners or insurgents.

Previous attempts to calculate the number of dead have been controversial. Past reports have used a number of different methods to produce estimates ranging from more than 100,000 to well over half a million deaths since 2003.

The Ministry of Human Rights included the figure in a larger report into human rights in the country.

It does not include the first months of the war after the 2003 US-led invasion, as there was no functioning Iraqi government at that time to keep track.

"Through the terrorist attacks like explosions, assassinations, kidnappings and forced displacements, the outlawed groups have created these terrible figures which represent a big challenge for the rule of law and for the Iraqi people," it said.

Among the deaths were 1,279 children, 2,334 women, 263 university professors, 21 judges, 95 lawyers and 269 journalists.

The data covers only violent deaths, such as people killed in shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings. It does not include indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that contributed to more deaths. About 148,000 people were injured during the same period.

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says the numbers may be staggering but they are relatively conservative.

Advocates for and against the invasion have accused each other of manipulating the figures to suit their own political ends, our correspondent adds.

The reality is that, amid the chaos and violence that followed the invasion, the true number may never be known.

The most recent numbers from Iraq Body Count, a non-governmental organisation that has tracked civilian casualties since the war began, puts the number of fatalities at 93,540.

Indians Go On 'Gold-Buying Blitz'

Despite record prices of gold, Indians, during the week of Diwali, bought god worth 89 billion rupees ($2.08 billion), according to the World Gold Council (WGC) data.

WGC said gold sales rose 5.7 per cent to 56 tonnes from a year earlier in the week of October 12-19, which is considered the most auspicious period to buy gold according to Indian tradition.

Ajay Mitra, the WGC’s managing director in India said, ‘The festive season was very positive. This increased demand can be attributed to consumers' belief that gold is the only safe investment in the current global scenario."

Gold prices in India had hit a record high of over 16,000 rupees ($370) per ten grams, but have since fallen slightly.

Gold is of cultural and religious significance for Indians, considered an auspicious metal and a visible sign of wealth and prosperity.

India is the world's biggest consumer of gold importing between 700 and 800 tonnes of the metal every year or 20 per cent of global demand.

AIUDF Demands Diplomatic Pressure On China And Pakistan

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by the Lok Sabha MP Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has condemned the recent aggressions by Pakistan and China and demanded the Indian government for stiff diplomatic pressure against them.

In a three-page memorandum handed over to the Maharashtra governor Mr. S.C. Jamir, AIUDF expressed its deep concern over Pakistani court acquitting the terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed. It urged India to immediately move to the International Court of Justice because the cases against Saeed and company are no way internal affairs of Pakistan alone; rather they are external security affairs of India and other peace loving countries. The party believes that the highly planned 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was the handiwork of one of its neighbours.

AIUDF also cautioned India’s Home and External affairs ministries against China and suggested to remain alert and ‘make no mistakes’. ‘China is highly aggressive and has a history of sudden attack on India,’ the memorandum reads adding that we should keep China away from Nepal and make India’s bond strong with friendly neighbouring countries.

US Working Women See Appearance As Key: Survey

Nearly all US working women believe that their professional appearance is crucial to success at work.

It was revealed during an online survey conducted by Atlanta-based PINK magazine- a publication for career women- and Minneapolis-based Corset Personal Styling- a service firm for women- from September 29 through October 11.

The survey which indulged 137 female business owners, chief executives, managers and professionals from PINK's readership found that 98 percent felt appearance affected their career, and just 2 percent disagreed.

A report in this regard published by Reuters read that fifty-five percent said they often think they have nothing to wear, and 40 percent said they tend to keep buying clothes that look the same.
Nearly half said they wear too much black, and a little more than half said they have difficulty finding trendy yet age-appropriate clothes.

Some 22 percent of the chief executives, top managers and business owners said they had withheld a promotion or rise because of how an employee dresses at work.
Of those, 36 were chief executives, business owners and top managers, it said. The poll did not include a margin of error.

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