Thursday, November 30, 2017

Japan's Emperor Akihito to abdicate in April 2019

Japan's ageing Emperor Akihito will step down in April 2019, marking the end of an imperial era for Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the abdication date shortly after a government and royal panel met to discuss the timing.

The 83-year-old emperor had said last year that his age and health would make it difficult to fulfil his duties.

The timing of his abdication, the first in more than two centuries, has been the subject of debate in Japan.

The Imperial Household Council, made up of Mr Abe, lawmakers, and members of Japan's royal family, convened on Friday to set the date of the abdication.

Mr Abe later met reporters briefly to announce that they had decided the emperor would step down on 30 April 2019.

His abdication will mark the end of the Heisei era, and he would be immediately succeeded by his son Crown Prince Naruhito on 1 May, which would start a new imperial era. - BBC, More

Japan's Emperor Akihito to abdicate in April 2019 - BBC News

Global blueprints on refugees, safe migration should include protections for children – UNICEF

30 November 2017 – The rights, protection and wellbeing of uprooted children should be central commitments of global migration policies, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday, as it released a new report prior to a meeting next week on safe, regular and orderly migration.

The meeting, taking place from 4 to 6 December in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is a major step towards drafting the landmark intergovernmental Global Compact for Migration , an agreement covering all dimensions of international migration.

“Global leaders and policymakers convening in Puerto Vallarta can work together to make migration safe for children,” said UNICEF Director of Programmes Ted Chaiban.

It is the moment when world leaders will begin to forge consensus on political and financial commitments in line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report, Beyond Borders: How to make the global compacts on migration and refugees work for uprooted children, highlights best practices for the care and protection of refugee and migrant children and includes examples of governments, civil society partners and host communities working to support and integrate uprooted children and their families.

“Our new report shows that it is possible, even in countries with stretched resources, to implement policies, services and investments that effectively support refugee and migrant children in their countries of origin, as they transit across borders and upon reaching their destinations,” said Mr. Chaiba.

Refugee and migrant children are especially vulnerable to xenophobia, abuse, sexual exploitation and lack of access to social services. The report underscores the importance of having policies in place to protect them over the course of their journey.

It also presents successful case studies from around the world, including the implementation of minimum protection standards for refugee children in Germany, cross border child protection systems in West Africa, and finding alternatives to the detention of migrant children in Zambia. Other countries featured in the report include Afghanistan, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, South Sudan, Vietnam, Uganda and the United States. - Read More

Global blueprints on refugees, safe migration should include protections for children – UNICEF

Can Police Track You Through Your Cellphone Without A Warrant?

The U.S. Supreme Court confronts the digital age again on Wednesday when it hears oral arguments in a case that promises to have major repercussions for law enforcement and personal privacy.

At issue is whether police have to get a search warrant in order to obtain cellphone location information that is routinely collected and stored by wireless providers.

Cellphone thieves caught because they used ... cellphones
The irony of the case before the court, Carpenter v. United States, is that it involves massive cellphone thefts and a string of armed robberies at Radio Shacks in Michigan and Ohio. The robbers entered the stores, guns drawn, herded patrons to the back, loaded up laundry bags with new smartphones, and then later sold their booty to fences for tens of thousands of dollars per haul.

In April of 2011, police arrested four men, one of whom confessed that he and a shifting group of 15 others had robbed nine different stores over the previous year. The suspect identified Timothy Carpenter as one of the ringleaders. The thieves all pleaded guilty, except for Carpenter and his half-brother.

At their trial, the icing on the prosecution's case was the cellphone location information recorded by Carpenter's wireless provider for each of the calls he placed or received on the dates of the robberies.

This was seven years ago, and several smartphone generations ago, too. The information used at Carpenter's trial was not exactly precise. It did not record where he was when he texted, or where he was when his phone was not in use. But when he made or received calls, the cellphone towers nearby recorded his general location, with an accuracy range of about a half mile to 2 miles. And those calls matched up rather nicely with the vicinity of the robberies. - More, NPR

Can Police Track You Through Your Cellphone Without A Warrant?

Justices May Impose New Limits On Government Access To Cellphone Data

International Law The Banality of Crimes against Migrants

Around the world, migrants are locked up in camps, abused and often driven to the brink of starvation. Many die as a result. These crimes should finally be punished, by the International Criminal Court.

Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions, presented animportant new report to the UN General Assembly on Friday. The report is on "Unlawful Death of Refugees and Migrants" -- already an unordinary focus for her mandate. In recent years, her office has focused nearly exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly on deaths by drone attacks.

As she explains, the report concerns "an international crime whose very banality in the eyes of so many makes its tragedy particularly grave and disturbing." The contention is rather dramatic, and we believe that it is indeed historic, at least as far as reports by UN bodies are concerned.

Callamard spells out the practical implications: "The International Criminal Court should consider preliminary investigation into atrocity crimes against refugees and migrants where there are reasonable grounds that such crimes have taken place and the jurisdictional requirements of the court have been met." It is particularly out of the ordinary for a UN body to recommend to the International Criminal Court what cases it should consider, but that is exactly what Callamard has chosen to do.

Against the backdrop of constant militarization of borders, her recommendation is urgent; yet without some contextualization, it can be easily misunderstood. The discipline of international criminal law emerged in aggression and atrocity. The paradigm, still capturing popular imagination, is of course the catastrophe of World War II. Aggressive war was at the center of the jurisdiction of the international military tribunal created by the allied victors. The existence of war was necessary in order to pass judgement on the perpetrators of collective violence.

Only gradually has the practice of international criminal law moved away from the fixation on war as the necessary trigger for international accountability. International criminal prosecution diversified its focus. The legal concept of crimes against humanity, linked to war at Nuremberg, is no longer tied to it. For example, the indictment of General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 had associated criminal prosecution with a society's attempt to reckon with past tyranny.

At the same time, the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was brimming with potential. The support it enjoyed was not only associated with mass atrocities but also with an aim to achieve global justice. Crimes Against Humanity, not necessarily linked to war, feature in the ICC's jurisdiction. They include crimes like apartheid, which is a system of government rather than a method of war. Prohibited acts when committed as a "widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population" encompass an array of practices that may occur in times of peace: torture, which is often practiced in law enforcement contexts; imprisonment without procedural safeguards or in abhorrent conditions; persecution, which is the severe deprivation of fundamental rights through discrimination; and unlawful deportation.- Read More, Der Spiegel

International LawThe Banality of Crimes against Migrants

Refugee family reunification in Germany - what you need to know

Refugee family reunification in Germany was a major sticking point in preliminary coalition talks. DW explains how the process works – and why critics want to lift the current ban permanently.

Fleeing war and coming to Germany as a refugee is not an easy step. After arrival, one of the highest priorities for refugees from Syria, Iraq or northern Africa is to bring their families from dangerous war zones or refugee camps to a safe home in Germany.

In spring 2016, the German government passed a new regulation on family reunification, which slowed down the process.

But after the country's general election in September, questions over the future of the families of more than one million refugees who arrived in Germany since 2015 has taken on an even more critical dimension.

The issue was a major sticking point in failed exploratory coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party CSU, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green party.

How does family reunification work?
In general, someone who has been granted asylum or refugee status has the right to bring immediate family members to Germany, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Immediate family members include the spouse, children and – only if the refugee is a minor – siblings and parents. The family member who traveled to Germany has to apply for family reunification as soon as possible after having been granted asylum. They don't need to prove that they can support themselves or that they have adequate living space as a precondition for family members entering the country. - Read More - dw

Refugee family reunification in Germany - what you need to know ...

اخراج پناهجویان رد شده به افغانستان و پاکستان ادامه می یابد

حکومت آلمان می خواهد در آغاز دسمبر پناهجویان رد شده افغان را واپس به کشور شان بفرستد. از قرار معلوم این پرواز به تاریخ ۶ دسمبر از شهر "فرانکفورت ام ماین" صورت خواهد گرفت.

در بدو امر معلوم نیست که چه تعداد از افراد در این پرواز واپس فرستاده می شوند. یکی از کارمندان سازمان حامی پناهجویان "پروز ازول" گفته است که  احتمالا سرحد نهایی ۵۰ مسافر در این پرواز باشد. او گفته است که  اما ممکن است باز هم پناهجویان کمتری در این پرواز انتقال داده شوند. در ماه های اکتوبر و سپتمبر، دولت فدرال و ایالت به ترتیب ۱۴ و ۸ پناهجوی افغان را به افغانستان اخراج کردند. تا کنون، از ماه دسمبر سال ۲۰۱۶ به این طرف آلمان با هفت پرواز جمعی در مجموع ۱۲۸ پناهجو رد شده افغان را بازگردانده است.

اخراج ها به افغانستان بحث برانگیز است، زیرا وضعیت امنیتی در این کشور روبه خرابی نهاده است و درگیری های نیرو های حکومتی با طالبان و هم با گروه  تروریستی "دولت اسلامی" یا داعش  شدت گرفته است.

بر اساس گزارش رسانه آلمانی "اشپیگل"، قرار است در همین روز پناهجویان رد شده پاکستانی نیز به کشور شان انتقال یابند. آلمان بر اساس اطلاعات وزارت داخله این کشور در سال ۲۰۱۷، تعداد اخراج ها به پاکستان را تقریبا دو برابر کرده است. یک سخنگوی این وزارات گفته است که تا کنون ۱۴۹ پاکستانی در سال روان میلادی اخراج گردیده اند. در سال ۲۰۱۶ میلادی ۸۱ پاکستانی و در سال ۲۰۱۵ در مجموع ۲۲ پاکستانی به پاکستان انتقال یافته اند. - Read More

اخراج پناهجویان رد شده به افغانستان و پاکستان ادامه می یابد | مهاجرت به ...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

U.S. general sees no change in Pakistan behavior despite Trump tough line

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said on Tuesday that he had not seen a change in Pakistan’s support for militants so far, despite President Donald Trump taking a tougher line against Islamabad.

U.S. officials have long been frustrated by what they see as Pakistan’s reluctance to act against groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that they believe exploit safe haven on Pakistani soil to launch attacks on neighboring Afghanistan.

In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants.

He accused Pakistan of harboring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against a U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

U.S. official expressed hope that relations between the two countries could improve after a kidnapped U.S.-Canadian couple and their three children were freed in Pakistan in October. The couple was abducted in neighboring Afghanistan. - Read More

U.S. general sees no change in Pakistan behavior despite Trump tough line

Ivanka Trump, feted in India, calls for closing gender gap in business

HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump kicked off a global business summit in southern India on Tuesday calling for better opportunities for women entrepreneurs battling heavy odds around the world.

Ivanka, also an informal adviser to her father, received a warm welcome in India’s high-tech hub of Hyderabad with all the trappings of a state guest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined her in the opening of the U.S.-backed Global Entrepreneurship Summit which New Delhi is hoping will further boost political and economic ties with the United States under the Trump administration.

Ivanka, wearing a bright green floral dress, said fuelling the growth of women-led businesses and closing the gender entrepreneurship gap could help expand global GDP by 2 percent.

“Women still face steep obstacles to starting, owning and growing their businesses. We must ensure women entrepreneurs have access to capital, access to networks and mentors,” Ivanka said to loud cheers from a packed audience in a heavily-guarded conference center. - Read More

Ivanka Trump, feted in India, calls for closing gender gap in business

Hamid Karzai: 'The consequences of failure in Afghanistan will reach Germany'

Former President Hamid Karzai briefs DW on the continued security problems in Afghanistan. He advocates an immediate appraisal of what's gone wrong, saying Afghanistan's future is in the hands of the younger generation.

Hamid Karzai: The security situation unfortunately isn't what we desired. It is far less than what we desired. There are daily bombs around the country, there is daily insecurity around the country, there is a greater part of the country under the control of non-government forces. Violence is on the increase. After 16 years of our campaign against extremism and terrorism we still have new terrorist groups emerging in Afghanistan. Daesh [an Arabic name for the "Islamic State" — Editor's note] has emerged. We have questions as to why.

Well, that's a good question. What is the biggest problem that's stopping Afghanistan from becoming peaceful? That's what many people outside of Afghanistan are asking themselves.

There are two main factors. Let me put it this way. Some would say it is because of Afghanistan. No, it is not because of Afghanistan or of the Afghan people. The Afghan people cooperated fully with the international community with a great desire to see their country peaceful and nice and prosperous and democratic, which we did. It is factors outside of Afghanistan which are more decisive with regard to security and stability of Afghanistan. Pakistan was the main factor and we all knew and the world knew: The sanctuaries there, the training grounds there, the financial resources provided to terrorism and the ideological inputs that they give to terrorism and send to Afghanistan. The second most important factor or rather equally important factor was the whole conduct of US strategy in Afghanistan. The approach to Afghanistan and approach to fighting extremism was very heavy handed. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan, creation of prisons in Afghanistan, the violation of our sovereignty and violation of Afghan homes and culture and values. All that accumulated and put together brought us where we are today. - dw

Hamid Karzai: ′The consequences of failure in Afghanistan will reach ...

Monday, November 27, 2017

Prince Harry: Stars were aligned when I met Meghan - BBC

Prince Harry says he and US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle fell in love "so incredibly quickly" and it seemed proof that the "stars were aligned".

The fifth in line to the throne was speaking after the couple announced their engagement and plans to marry in spring 2018.

The couple told the BBC's Mishal Husain they met on a blind date and neither had known much about each other.

Prince Harry said "beautiful" Ms Markle "just tripped and fell into my life".

He believed Ms Markle and his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, would have been "thick as thieves... best friends". - Read More

Prince Harry: Stars were aligned when I met Meghan - BBC News

Prince Harry And Actor Meghan Markle To Marry In Spring

Britain's Prince Harry and American actor Meghan Markle are set to tie the royal knot in the spring, his father, Prince Charles, announced Monday.

"Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty The Queen and other close members of his family," Charles said in a statement. "Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms Markle's parents."

Harry is currently fifth in line to the British throne and Markle, best known for her role in USA Network's television show Suits, were engaged earlier this month, the statement said, adding: "The couple will live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace."

The Guardian says, "Their 16-month relationship began when they met through mutual friends in London and the pair have been particularly close in recent months, with Markle reported to be staying regularly at Harry's home at Kensington Palace." - Read More, NPR

Prince Harry And Actor Meghan Markle To Marry In Spring

Friday, November 24, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Highs - nytimes

After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed.

There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, “It’s an historic moment; we’ll wait.”

Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francois de Poortere, Christie’s head of old master paintings.

The price is all the more remarkable at a time when the old masters market is contracting, because of limited supply and collectors’ penchant for contemporary art.

And to critics, the astronomical sale attests to something else — the degree to which salesmanship has come to drive and dominate the conversation about art and its value. Some art experts pointed to the painting’s damaged condition and its questionable authenticity.

Christie’s marketing campaign was perhaps unprecedented in the art world; it was the first time the auction house went so far as to enlist an outside agency to advertise the work. Christie’s also released a videothat included top executives pitching the painting to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s called the work “the Last da Vinci,” the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection (some 15 others are in museums). - Read More

Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction ...

Afghanistan’s Beautiful Link to Da Vinci’s $450 Million ‘Salvator Mundi’ - Suleiman Wali

It is difficult to imagine that the Renaissance-era painting by Leonardo da Vinci that was recently auctioned in New York for $450 million has any kind of relationship with Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. On the same day that the jaw-dropping Christie’s sale of Salvator Mundi (Italian for Savior of the World) shattered world records — and went for more than seven million times as much as it sold for in 1958 ($60!) — it was reported that Afghanistan’s opium production, unfortunately, also hit a record high of its own, rising 87 percent from last year.

However, it is not in the statistics, but in the aesthetics where an incredibly intimate connection can be made.

The predominant color in the mesmerizing Salvator Mundi — the celestial, vivid blue that clothes Jesus Christ himself — hails from the rich and forbidding caves of the Sar-e-Sang valley in Afghanistan’s mountainous Badakhshan province. The source of this blue is the country’s lapis lazuli, a semiprecious gemstone that was once more expensive per ounce than gold.

In his famous Book of the Arts, written around 1400, the Italian painter Cennino Cennini says of the lapis lazuli pigment: “A noble color, beautiful, the most perfect of all colors.”

Lapis is the Latin word for “stone,” and lazuli is derived from “lajaward,” which is the rock’s name in Farsi. The word for “blue” in several languages was derived from lazuli:azure in English; azur in French; azzurro in Italian and azul in Spanish.

Once ground and turned into a powder, or pigment, this azure stone, then mixed with liquefying substances, became known as ultramarine, which literally means “over the sea,” a romantic reference to its passage from Afghanistan to Venice.

The first known use of ultramarine as a pigment actually goes back to the fifth and sixth centuries in Buddhist cave temples in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, according to Hamid Naweed, a leading Afghan art historian and author of Art Through The Ages in Afghanistan.

The lapis lazuli pigment emerged in Europe around the 14th century. During the Renaissance, ultramarine was the ultimate color used in frescoes and oil paintings, most notably because of its inability to fade or change color and, of course, for its captivating qualities, making it one of the most important pigments in Western fine art history.

“The Egyptian Book of the Dead recognizes lapis lazuli, carved in the shape of an eye and set in gold, as an amulet of inestimable power,” writes Mangla, perhaps making them history’s first evil-eye talismans. “Cleopatra, in common lore, wore powdered lapis lazuli as eye shadow.”

Throughout the centuries, caravans traveling along what would be called the Silk Road transported their precious blue cargo West to northern Africa and Europe and East to China. Marco Polo referred to the region’s lapis mines in 1271. In the Muslim era, prayer beads were made from the azure gemstones and exquisitely designed Qur’ans were garnished with its dark blue paint.

“This was a history of myth, legend and relics of our world cultures revealed clearly. Many languages spoke of lapis lazuli,” writes Lailee McNair Bakhtiar in Afghanistan’s Blue Treasure: Lapis Lazuli. “A consistent desire to create for the sacred churches, temples and memories of aspiration and adoration of God and the earth, was at the heart of the artistic expression as it came to be for this decorative gemstone of Afghanistan.”

In the 19th century, even as ultramarine was replaced by a synthetic paint called “French ultramarine,” the original lapis lazuli stone still captivated European writers. William Butler Yeats wrote a poem titled Lapis Lazuli, after being gifted an intricately carved Chinese artwork that was made from the azure rock. Robert Browning penned a poem about a fictional bishop who, on his deathbed, instructs his heirs that a lump of hidden lapis should be used to beautify his memorial: “All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope my villas!”

Within Afghanistan, intricate lapis jewelry and artwork have adorned the bodies and homes of everyone from tribal villagers to royal families, and all of those in between, for centuries. They continue to be sold online, as well as in markets within the country and worldwide.

Despite lapis lazuli mines having been discovered in other parts of the world, none has been able to compare to the quality, beauty and abundance of the blue treasure densely packed within the Afghan mountains. - Read More
Afghanistan’s Beautiful Link To Da Vinci’s $450 Million ‘Salvator Mundi’ - Huffingtonpost

What Is Afghan Culture? [Book Excerpt] -  Suleiman Wali

Thursday, November 23, 2017

‘Still in a stalemate,’ says top U.S. commander in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — America's top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, told NBC News Thursday that the war here remains in a "stalemate," but that President Donald Trump's new strategy has reversed a decline in the U.S. position.

"We are still in a stalemate," Nicholson, a four-star Army general said in an exclusive interview with NBC News. "We are only 90 days into this new policy, but with the U.S. forces that will be arriving, with the new authority that we have been given, put the pressure on external enablers, with the fact that we are condition based and not time based, we've set all the conditions to win."

See more from the interview Friday on "NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt."

His comments largely tracked with a more upbeat-sounding assessment Trump gave in a video conference Thursday morning with members of the Army's 82nd Airborne First Brigade Combat Team here. - Read More

'Still in a stalemate,' says top US commander in Afghanistan

'FIFTY YEARS OF 60 MINUTES' -- Charlie Rose

Thursday 11/16/2017
Jeff Fager, executive producer of "60 Minutes," talks about the history of the show. - Read More

Fifty Years of 60 Minutes' — Charlie Rose

Friday 11/17/2017Part two of Charlie's conversation with executive producer Jeff Fager about the history of "60 Minutes." Drew Faust, president of Harvard, talks about her tenure at the university and her plans to step down in July of 2018. Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, on President Donald Trump's recent trip to Asia and political developments in Saudi Arabia. - MoreCharlie Rose
'60 Minutes,' Pt. 2; Drew Faust; Ian Bremmer - 

Video - Episode Listing — Charlie Rose