EarthLink – News

EarthLink – News

Kashmiri reporter finds fear, chaos in locked-down hometown
By SHEIKH SAALIQ | Wed, August 14, 2019 10:42 EDT
BARAMULLA, India (AP) — My car moved within a column of Indian army vehicles and a cloud of dust. On a normal day, it would have been a smooth journey from the airport in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, to my family home in the northern town of Baramulla.
But life is very different in the Kashmir Valley these days. The part that India controls is now under an unprecedented security crackdown to prevent an uprising after the central government in New Delhi unexpectedly stripped the region’s special constitutional status, the last vestige of real autonomy for the predominantly Muslim region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan.
Hundreds of Indian soldiers, armed with automatic rifles, patrol the Srinagar-Baramulla highway, a 35-mile (56-kilometer) -long road that connects the region’s main city with its northern towns. Civilian traffic is sporadic. Shops are shuttered. Army trucks gather speed along the road. And spools of concertina wire block the streets that branch off the highway, forcing residents to remain indoors.
The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir is under lockdown.
I first returned to Kashmir last week on a reporting trip when Parliament revoked the region’s special status. My second trip was more personal. I was going home to see my relatives on the Eid al-Adha holiday after not having talked to them for days amid a shutdown of phone and internet service.
The trip from Srinagar airport to Baramulla was filled with fear and a strange sense of homecoming. There was hardly any traffic on the highway. Every 10-15 minutes, Indian soldiers stopped vehicles and frisked travelers.
Most of the roads I crossed were strewn with debris — a sign of the population’s anger. The streets were almost deserted and the mood among the people somber. Under the simmering crisis, ordinary Kashmiris were caught in tumult and waiting to see what happens.
“We will fight India,” said Firdous Ahmad Naqash, 19, on a road that leads to Sopore, a northern town where anti-India feelings run deep.
Muzaffar Teli, a 56-year-old man sitting next to him, echoed his words.
“Him and me, we will together fight India now,” he said.
Kashmiris fear the move to put their region under greater control from New Delhi will change its demographics and cultural identity. India said its decision would free the troubled region from separatism.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades. Some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants and civilian protesters and Indian security forces since 1989. Most Kashmiris want either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
The nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over Kashmir. The first ended in 1948 with the region divided and a promise of a U.N.-sponsored referendum that was never held.
Conversations with residents, many of whom spoke anonymously for fear of being arrested by Indian authorities, often ended with a deep sigh or a burst of anger.
“It’s all black and white now. It’s them (India) versus us,” said Masarat Jan, her daughter clinging to her tightly as they maneuvered around concertina wire.
“She is an asthma patient,” Jan said, referring to her daughter. “How will we get her the medicine she needs if these restrictions continue?”
At home, things weren’t good. My mother, who is diabetic, was running out of insulin and clinics were out of stock. A doctor promised that he will try to get some from Srinagar if he could get to the city.
My family told me an elderly neighbor had died, but he had been buried quickly and no mourners were allowed to attend his funeral.
They have stopped watching the news, what little there is. They said Indian news channels were pushing the central government’s narrative by only showing images from places that were relatively calm.
I didn’t want to watch the news either. As fear, anger and ambiguity about what’s next dominate life in Kashmir, most people are anxious to get out of their homes and talk to their loved ones.
Security lockdowns and information blackouts are nothing new in Kashmir, where mass uprisings against Indian rule in 2008, 2010 and 2016 led to the deaths of more than 300 people in clashes. This month, however, marked the first time that landline phones were cut.
On Eid al-Adha, the biggest Islamic festival, Indian forces patrolled the streets but there was no traffic. People weren’t allowed to congregate to offer their prayers and the day passed quietly.
But a cloud of anger hovered throughout.
Kashmir is once again at a fragile moment, where the slightest spark can ignite unrest.
When they are not busy talking about “haalat” — or “the situation” — residents are exchanging the names of locations on the cusp of a bigger uprising.
Amid the tension, some dark humor emerged. One man joked about the uselessness of his cellphone, saying it was only good for throwing it at a bored soldier in the street.
Authorities in Baramulla carried out a spree of arrests, including political activists, former protesters and some stone-throwers. But they also arrested intellectuals and lawyers, according to several families I spoke to who described midnight raids. Because of the communication embargo, my calls from Delhi seeking comment from authorities didn’t go through.
Hardly any news emerged from Kashmir, except for some reports in Srinagar, where most of the media are staying. Authorities allowed some locals to use a cellphone to talk briefly to loved ones outside the region. But there was no word on what was happening in volatile south Kashmir.
Out of the total 256 rebels slain in 2018, south Kashmir recorded the highest number, with 127 militants killed. The region has emerged as a hub of militancy since rebel commander Burhan Wani was killed in 2016.
The crackdown has made the work of journalists especially hard, with communications down and movement restricted.
Arjumand Dar, 17, decried the government making a decision “without consulting the people of the region.”
In Baramulla’s Old Town neighborhood, once a hotbed of rebel activity, one man stood on a historic bridge over the Jhelum River and said the central government in New Delhi is mistaken if it thinks people will carry on without protesting.
“India has to leave Kashmir,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.
Amid the lack of communications, what little information leaks out often starts as gossip and then becomes a plausible rumor.
Many people told me they are prepared for the worst.
___
Sheikh Saaliq is an Associated Press reporter based in New Delhi.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

UK planning post-Brexit freight service for vital medicines
Wed, August 14, 2019 07:36 EDT
LONDON (AP) — The British government wants to create an “express freight service” to ensure essential medicines are still available if the U.K. leaves the European Union without a divorce deal.
The Department of Health said Thursday it is inviting potential providers to submit offers for a contract lasting at least a year. The department hasn’t specified what method of transportation the service would use.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists Brexit will happen Oct. 31 whether or not there is an approved agreement with the EU.
Many economists say no amount of planning can prevent economic damage from a no-deal Brexit, which would bring new customs inspections and tariffs.
Mark Dyan of the Nuffield Trust health charity says the proposed medicines service shows “the scale of disruption the government is preparing for.”

Read More…

EarthLink – News

Climate change threatens US West river despite wet winter
By FELICIA FONSECA | Thu, August 15, 2019 01:56 EDT
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. But the wet weather can be misleading.
Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter.
“It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward,” James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year. “You can put an ice cube — even an excellent ice cube — in a cup of hot coffee, but eventually it’s going to disappear.”
For the seven states relying on the Colorado River, which carries melted snow from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, that means a future with increasingly less water for farms and cities.
Climate scientists say it’s hard to predict how much less. The river supplies 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming as well as a $5-billion-a-year agricultural industry.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico.
After a wet winter, the agency isn’t expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of water.
But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long term. Arizona, Nevada and Mexico could give up some water voluntarily in 2020 under a drought contingency plan approved by the seven states earlier this year.
Here is a look at the Colorado River amid climate change:
COLORADO RIVER FLOW
Much of the water in the Colorado River and its tributaries originates as snow.
As temperatures rise and demand grows, the water supply declines. Even if more snow and rain fell, it wouldn’t necessarily all end up in the river. Plants will suck up more water, and it will evaporate quicker.
Brad Udall, a water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, said the river’s flow could decrease even further to 20% by 2050 and 35% by 2100.
“On any given day, it’s hotter, we have more days for a growing season to occur, we have a thirstier atmosphere,” he said. “When you put all those things together, you lose flow in the river.”
CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change doesn’t mean the American West will be hot and dry all the time. Extreme swings in weather are expected as part of a changing climate — something Udall has called “weather whiplash.”
The Southwest got a reprieve this year with average and above-average snowfall following a year that sent many states into extreme drought. Nearly empty reservoirs quickly rose, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell — the largest manmade reservoirs in the country that hold Colorado River water.
The lakes still are far below capacity, steadily declining since 2000 with a bigger spike after winter 2011.
A wet year interrupting years of dryness isn’t uncommon.
“We’re very thankful for this gain in wet hydrology and storage in the reservoirs that happened this year, but we know we can lose it just as fast,” said Carly Jerla with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
DROUGHT
Many states declared an end to short-term drought this year, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor, which looks at land conditions.
The map is produced by the National Drought Migration Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But not all agencies use the same indicators for drought.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation uses Lake Mead on the Nevada-Arizona border and Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border. The reservoirs were nearly full in 1999 before the agency declared a drought the following year that hasn’t let up. As of Monday, Lake Powell was 57% full and Lake Mead was 39% full.
Jerla says the bureau won’t say the drought is over until those reservoirs fill completely, which won’t happen without consecutive years of wet weather.
PROTECTING THE RIVER
The seven states that rely on the Colorado River signed a plan earlier this year to protect the waterway from climate change and keep Lake Mead and Lake Powell fuller.
The drought contingency plan is meant to keep the reservoirs from dropping so low that they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower amid prolonged drought and climate change.
Nevada, California and Arizona voluntarily would give up water when Lake Mead reaches certain levels, as would Mexico, which also gets a portion of water from the river. The deal expires in 2026, and the states will begin negotiating new guidelines next year.

Read More…

EarthLink – News

Japan’s new emperor remorseful in 1st war anniversary speech
By MARI YAMAGUCHI | Thu, August 15, 2019 01:03 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” over Japan’s role in World War II in his first appearance at the annual ceremony marking the end of the hostilities.
The 59-year-old Naruhito is Japan’s first emperor born after the war, and his remarks Thursday closely followed the stance of his father, Akihito, who abdicated in May.
“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” Naruhito said in a short speech at an event in Tokyo marking the 74th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.
Looking nervous and his voice slightly trembling, Naruhito pledged to reflect on the wartime past and expressed hope that the tragedy should never be repeated. Empress Masako, in a gray suit and a hat, quietly stood by his side, her head slightly lowered.
Naruhito has promised to follow in the footsteps of his father, who committed his career to making amends for a war fought in the name of Hirohito — the current emperor’s grandfather. Though Akihito has avoided a direct apology, he has subtly stepped up his expressions of regret over the past years in carefully scripted statements on the war.
In sharp contrast, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not apologize or acknowledge Japanese wartime atrocities in Asia and elsewhere. Instead, he made a long list of damage inflicted on Japan and its people, including the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, massive fire bombings of Tokyo and the fierce battle of Okinawa.
The emperor’s words have taken on greater importance and caught attention as Abe has increasingly sought to whitewash Japan’s troubled and embarrassing past since taking office in December 2012. Abe has since stopped acknowledging Japan’s wartime hostilities in his Aug. 15 speech, ending a tradition that past prime ministers had handed down since the 1995 apology by a Socialist leader Tomiichi Murayama.
Abe made no reference to Japan’s ongoing dispute with South Korea over trade and compensation demands over brutal treatment of Korean laborers during Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945. He pledged that Japan will reflect on lessons from history and will not repeat the devastation of war, while joining international efforts to tackle world problems.
Abe, however, stayed away from a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted war criminals among the war dead, and instead sent a religious offering, a gesture to avoid angering China and South Korea, which consider the Yasukuni shrine as a symbol of Japan’s militarism.
___
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Read More…

EarthLink – News

Correction: Steve King-Abortion story
Thu, August 15, 2019 04:08 EDT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In a story Aug. 14 about Rep. Steve King’s comments on banning abortion, The Associated Press, relying on a story by The Des Moines Register, inaccurately Quote: d King as saying, “It’s not the baby’s fault for the sin of the father, or of the mother.” Referring to House support for a ban on abortions, King actually said, “I’ve got 174 people who say they don’t want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too.”
A corrected version of the story is below:
Rep. Steve King says rapes, incest helped populate the world
US Rep Steve King is defending his call for a ban on all abortions by questioning whether there would be “any population of the world left’ if not for births due to rape and incest
By SCOTT McFETRIDGE
Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve King on Wednesday defended his call for a ban on all abortions by questioning whether there would be “any population of the world left” if not for births due to rape and incest.
Speaking before a conservative group in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, the Iowa congressman reviewed legislation he has sought that would outlaw abortions without exceptions for rape and incest. King justified the lack of exceptions by questioning how many people would be alive if not for those conceived through rapes and incest.
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King asked, according to video of the event, which was covered by The Des Moines Register. “Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place … I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.”
Referring to support in the U.S. House for a ban on abortions, King added, “I’ve got 174 people who say they don’t want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too.”
A King spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
The nine-term Republican congressman, who represents a sprawling, largely rural 39-county district, has been criticized repeatedly for comments he’s made over the years, especially on issues related to race and immigration.
Shortly before the November 2018 election, The Washington Post reported that King met in Austria with the far-right Freedom Party, a group with Nazi ties. King said the meeting was with business leaders, including one person from the Freedom Party, but the newspaper stood by its story.
Soon after the election, King was Quote: d in a New York Times story saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” The comments were denounced as racist and led the House to vote 424-1 to rebuke King. Republican leaders also stripped him of his committee assignments.
Although King has usually breezed to victories in the conservative 4th Congressional District, he narrowly won his last election over Democrat J.D. Scholten.
This year, several candidates have said they will challenge King for the Republican nomination, including conservative state Sen. Randy Feenstra. Scholten also recently announced he’d again run for the seat.
After King’s comment Wednesday, Feenstra said in a statement, “I am 100% pro-life but Steve King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message & damage our cause.”
Scholten also criticized King.
“Yet again, Steve King puts his selfish, hateful ideology above the needs of the people of Iowa’s 4th District. Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable,” Scholten said in a statement.
In a tweet, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, called King’s comments “appalling and bizarre” and added “it’s time for him to go.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates noted King’s comments and urged people to contribute to Scholten’s campaign.
“You would think it would be pretty easy to come out against rape and incest,” one of the presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg, said in a statement. “Then again, you’d think it’d be pretty easy to come out against white nationalism.”

Read More…