Burkini ban defended by French Prime Minister, some in cabinet wary

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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended a ban on burkinis in more than a dozen coastal towns on Thursday, saying France was locked in a “battle of cultures” and that the full-body swimsuit symbolised the enslavement of women.  Photographs of armed police ordering a Muslim woman on a beach in the Mediterranean city of Nice to partially disrobe went viral on social media this week, upsetting many French Muslims and causing global consternation.

In a sign of rifts opening in the socialist government before a presidential election in 2017, France’s Moroccan-born education minister said the debate was fanning racist rhetoric and being used for political gain. The health minister said France’s secular values did not mean a rejection of religion.

“We have to wage a determined fight against radical Islam, against these religious symbols which are filtering into public spaces,” Valls said in an interview on BFM-TV.

Reiterating his stance on the issue, he said: “For me the burkini is a symbol of the enslavement of women.”

France’s Conseil d’Etat, its highest administrative court, on Thursday began hearing a request by a human rights group for the burkini ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet to be overturned.

The debate over the burkini ban encapsulates the difficulties secular France faces as it grapples with a response to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants, following Islamist attacks on Nice and a Normandy church in July, and major deadly attacks in Paris last year. Security and immigration are now central issues in the presidential election campaign.

Former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy, who joined the presidential race on Monday, told the Figaro magazine that France under President Francois Hollande had become too timid. “The Burkini is a political act, a militant act, a provocation. Women who wear it are testing the Republic,” Sarkozy told the magazine in comments to be published on Friday.

In a demonstration of how the Burkini controversy has reverberated abroad, British author J. K. Rowling tweeted: “So Sarkozy calls the Burkini a ‘provocation’. Whether women cover or uncover their bodies, seems we’re always ‘asking for it.’” France is not the only country where restrictions on face and head coverings are back in the spotlight, and debate on assimilation is raging in Western Europe after a wave of militant strikes and an immigration crisis that has forced a rethink of Europe’s internal open border policy.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want a partial ban on the niqab, or face veil, while in Austria right-wing politicians have called for a ban on the burqa, which covers the face and body. In Switzerland there are calls for a popular vote on a ban on the burqa. On a visit to Paris on Thursday, London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the ban, saying no one should tell women what to wear.

“I don’t think it’s right,” Khan told the Evening Standard newspaper. “One of the joys of London is that we don’t simply tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it.”

The burkini has been banned by at least 15 French towns from Corsica to the northern coast but most restrictions have been enforced in the southeast, an area where the far-right is strong and which is a gateway and home for many immigrants. It has also been a fertile zone for Islamist militant networks recruiting would-be jihadists to fight in Syria.

The stigma caused by the ban “would only encourage Islamic State’s recruiters”, said Abdallah Zekri of the National Observatory against Islamaphobia. At least two ministers came out in open disagreement with the government’s stance on the burkini bans on Thursday.

“To pretend that swimming veiled or bathing on a beach dressed is in itself threatening to public order and the values of the Republic is to forget that those (secular) values are meant to allow each person to safeguard their identity,” Health Minister Marisol Touraine wrote on her website. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said she opposed burkinis but dismissed the argument of Prime Minister Valls that the ban was a useful tool in France’s fight against militants.

“There is no link between the terror attacks of Daesh and the dress of a woman on the beach,” Vallaud-Belkacem told Europe 1 radio, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

While Valls on Thursday rejected the idea the ban might fuel sympathies for militant groups, some government officials are worried. One senior French government official warned that missteps would only exacerbate tensions heightened since a Tunisian drove his truck through a crowd in Nice last month, killing 86 people, and youths slit the throat of a Catholic priest in Normandy.

“We have several million Muslims in France who are mostly moderates or non-practicing. If they feel that it is the only subject in public debate they won’t feel at home and will be tempted to withdraw to their communities,” the official said. The Conseil d’Etat is expected to rule on the Villeneuve-Lobet ban on Friday.


Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani 25th August 2016 full episode written update: Dadu enters Amer Court and reminisces her reign

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Raja tells Dadu that he’ll talk about Rani with his father and grandmother in Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani. Amrita stops him and says that she will do that and not him. Dadu says that it’s her right to do that. She tells them that it’s late and they should now go. Rani’s friends say they’ll celebrate for some time now that they are getting married.

Jeevan is seen talking to his mother’s picture and declaring that he won’t let anyone get married to Rani.

Raja and Rani are with their friends celebrating the news of their marriage. They dance together and their friends shower roses on them and join them. Raja and Rani are sitting together when they hug each other and Raja takes out a knife.

Amrita is seen picturing Kaal when she will tell him the truth about Dadu and Rani. She thinks that Kaal will get angry and will finally decide to kill them both so she says nothing to Kaal although he’s standing right in front of her.

Raja is seen taking the knife and cutting his own hand and promising with his blood that he’ll never ever leave Rani and will love her for life.

Amrita comes and gives her jewellery to Raja and asks him to leave the Mahal with Dadu and Rani. He tells her that he won’t do that as he loves Rani and that it’s not wrong. Rani has always been alone in her life and he won’t let her live like that anymore. Amrita thinks about whether she should tell him the truth but doesn’t. She says if he’s so set on his decision, he will talk to Kaal and Rani Maa in the morning.

Kaal senses that Amrita has to say something and asks her to talk. She tells them that Raja has planned to marry Rani as he’s in love with her since childhood. Kaal and Badi Rani Maa are equally stunned to hear that.

Raja brings Dadu and Rani to the Mahal and talks about Kaal. He tells them that Kaal isn’t as big hearted as they are. And also that his grandmother won’t welcome the idea of Raja and Rani but once she agrees to it, she will make it happen.

Kaal asks Amrita to explain what she’s saying. Rani Maa says no to the marriage as they won’t let their son get married to a lower caste family. She says Rani getting married to Jeevan was not a problem as he’s just a bastard but Raja is the heir to Amer Court and cannot marry a servant.

Dadu enters the Mahal and remembers when she was the queen and talks about how familiar the place feels like. Even Rani Maa feels some weird vibes around her.

Amrita says that Rani is no servant but is noble-blooded. Kaal demands the truth. Dadu walks from one corner to another admiring an exploring the Mahal and Raja tells her that she’s walking like it’s her own house. He calls her Raj Mata and she says that it feels like she’s been called that before.

Dadu goes and sits in one of the rooms when Kokila comes in and asks her to show her face. Dadu turns and Kokila immediately recognises her as Raj Mata. (Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani 24th August 2016 full episode written update: Raja and Rani confess their love)


Odisha: No negligence in arranging vehicle for body of Majhi’s wife, say district health officers

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Amid an outcry over a tribal man forced to walk 10 km with his wife’s body in Odisha’s Kalahandi, district health authorities on Thursday claimed there was no negligence and an ambulance was arranged to take the corpse to their village when the incident came to light. Even as a probe was ordered into the incident that took place Wednesday, Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of Kalahandi Dr B K Brahma claimed Dana Majhi, husband of the deceased, did not contact anybody for a vehicle to take the body from the hospital to his village.

Amana Dei, wife of Dana Majhi of Melghara village under Thuamul Rampur block, was suffering from TB and was admitted in the TB ward of Bhawanipatna Government Hospital on August 23. She was given free injection and medicines by the doctor in-charge of the ward. In the night at about 10 PM, the doctor concerned attended her, the CDMO said in a press release.

However, the patient and her husband were not found around 1 AM. On inquiry it was known that without intimating anybody he took away his wife, the CDMO claimed. “The patient was neither discharged nor declared dead by the ward in-charge doctor,” the CDMO said, adding Majhi did not ask or contact anybody for a vehicle to carry his wife’s body.

Stressing that there was no negligence on the part of the hospital, Dr Brahma said when officials learnt about Majhi carrying his dead wife home, an ambulance was immediately arranged and the body was sent to his village. By then, Majhi, accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter, had already walked around 10 km carrying his wife’s body on his shoulder. District Collector of Kalahandi, Brundha D has directed the Sub-Collector of Bhawanipatna to conduct an inquiry into the incident, officials said.


BCCI hopes amended Sports Bill put forward during Budget Session

Under pressure to implement Lodha Committee Reforms as per Supreme Court Directives, the BCCI is relying that the revised National Sports Bill is tabled by the Budget Session of the Parliament in 2017 which will save them from undergoing structural changes. A very senior BCCI official said that some key changes are being made in the original Bill.

“The age cap of 70 years and the nine-year tenure are likely to be changed. There is likely to be some changes in the cooling off period also. But since BCCI doesn’t take government grants and till now isn’t under RTI ambit, it will also need amendment,” a senior BCCI official told reporters on sidelines of the Duleep Trophy match on Thursday.

The BCCI officials know that there is every possibility that Review as well as Curative Review Petition will be rejected by Apex Court and the only hope is amended Sports Bill.

“The National Sports Bill is the only hope. But it seems difficult that it would be placed before the Parliament during its Winter Session as it ends on December 23. So realistically the chances of Sports Bill being tabled is budget session,” the official said.

The procedure would be Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) will send the bill to Cabinet, which will then send it to Parliamentary Standing Committee that can seek amendments before it is finally tabled in Parliament.

Meanwhile, save secretary Ajay Shirke all top BCCI officials will be in Florida for the two T20 Internationals as BCCI has arranged an all expenses paid trip for its officials.

From DDCA, it is government nominee Rajan Tiwary who will be in the US. CAB will be represented by Gautam Dasgupta while NCC is sending Biswarup Dey.

BCCI president Anurag Thakur and IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla will also be present.


Marathon runner O P Jaisha tests positive for H1N1 virus

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Marathon runner OP Jaisha on Thursday tested positive for H1N1 virus aka swine flu after returning from Rio last week. She is the second Indian athlete to test positive for the virus after Sudha Singh was confirmed to be carrying the type A influenza strain on Wednesday. The marathon runner trained with Sudha before travelling to Rio for the Olympics.

Sportstar reported that Jaisha underwent tests at the state-run Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) on Wednesday. The RGICD Director Shashidhar Buggi told Sportstar: “Although her symptoms were mild, we had started her on Tamiflu, the anti-viral drug for treatment of H1N1. We had asked her to get admitted but she refused.”

Buggi added that Jaisha had complained of mild fever, body ache, joint pain and exhaustion. Jaisha, on her return from Rio, alleged that Indian officials did not provide her with water or energy drinks during the race. She collapsed at the finish line after completing the event with a timing of 2:47:19, and required medical help.

“It was very hot there. The competition was at 9am, I ran in scorching heat. There was no water for us, neither recovery drinks nor food. Only once in 8kms did we get water (from the Rio organisers) which did not help at all. All the countries had their stalls at every 2kms but our country’s stall was empty,” OP Jaisha told Times of India.


Policies of President Barack Obama helped India: US official

President Barack Obama laughs as the crowd sings "Happy Birthday" to him at the start of his remarks to the Young African Leaders Initiative event at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The changing demographics of the US does not support the views of the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, a former senior US official today said even as he termed “restraint” as the leitmotif of President’s Obama policy.

Ashley Tellis, a senior advisor to the Ambassador at the US embassy, said the policies of President Obama has “definitely” helped India. “The trajectory of India-US relationship is set and has seen a steady progress irrespective of whichever President has come to power in Washington. It is also unlikley to change,” he said delivering a lecture on ‘America and the World: Obama’s Strategic Legacy’ organised by Carnegie India.

Tellis, who is believed to have played a crucial role during the Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement, said New Delhi recognises that the US is important to aid India’s rise in power.

He, however, admitted that the US “failed” to gauge the genesis of the ISIS, but once it did, a fair amount of success was achieved in destroying the terror group.

Noting that restraint has been the leitmotif of Obama’s grand strategy, Tellis said, the success of American engagement will not come from greater restraint but from assertiveness and any successes arising from Obama’s policies are only transitory and not permanent.

He said Obama successfully avoided entry into major wars, not succumb to temptation of military intervention especially in the Middle east and successfully put a “break” on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Tellis, however, added that Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton will be more assertive, if voted to power as she deeply believes that if the US leadership is not forthcoming then even the collective actions or solutions will fail.

“She is more comfortable to use the American power than President Obama,” said Tellis, who served on the National Security Council staff as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia.

Asked about the impact on the Republican party if Trump loses, he said, if that happens marginally then the party will gravitate to the view held by Trump and if he is defeated resoundingly, then it will have to rethink on its ideology.

“Whatever views are presented by Trump the changing demography of America simply does not support that ideology. It’s after all the arithmetic that will kill the party,” Tellis said.

The former senior US official said Obama believes that an exercise of American power does not include “nation building”.

He said despite the rise of other powers including India and China, the US will remain the sole superpower and it will remain for sometime and added “assertiveness”, which is missing in the Obama’s foreign policy will make a return with the change of regime.


Hillary Clinton launches Asian outreach in three closely fought states

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Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is focusing an effort to win over Asian American voters on three states where it believes the small but rapidly growing group could make the difference in her race against Republican Donald Trump.

The push in closely fought Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania follows a broader national effort by Clinton’s campaign to court minorities who are critical to her chances of winning the White House in the Nov 8 election.

Asians make up less than 3.5 percent of the US population, but are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, according to the US Census, due largely to net migration, making them more important than ever in an election.

“Secretary Clinton understands the importance of the AAPI community and has launched a program that reflects that, reaching AAPI voters in unprecedented ways,” said Jason Tengco, the Clinton campaign’s outreach director for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

The three states were targeted because Asian voters could swing the outcome in the tight races between Trump and Clinton there.

The effort will include print, digital and broadcast advertising in a handful of Asian languages and more coordination among volunteer groups representing ethnic communities within the Asian American and Pacific Islander group, according to the campaign.

Among the recent hires for the effort was Philip Kim, a Los Angeles native who previously worked with Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, as outreach director for Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in Nevada.

The campaign did not say how much the three-state push would cost.

While small, the Asian population could eclipse the margin of victory in each of the states Clinton is targeting. Asians make up some 2.1 percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania, 5 percent in Virginia and 9 percent in Nevada, according to APIAVote, a nonpartisan group.

Polling from Reuters/Ipsos shows Clinton with a mere 1 point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, a 6 point lead in Virginia, and a 2 point lead in Nevada.


The challenge will be to get Asian Americans to the polls.

Asian American voters have tended to lean Democrat in the past but register to vote much less frequently than whites and blacks. Asian registration was about 56.3 percent in 2012, according to the Census, versus 73.1 percent for black voters and 71.9 percent for white voters.

“A big part of what we’re doing is voter registration,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Clinton spokeswoman.

Clinton’s campaign has already done significant Asian outreach. It launched the “AAPI for Hillary” campaign to engage Asian voters in January and has done phone calling in a range of languages for months.

But the campaign said the latest push was the first with state-specific programs. The Clinton campaign is considering advertisements in Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Chinese.

A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment about its Asian outreach.


Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo wins UEFA Best Player in Europe award

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Cristiano Ronaldo has won UEFA’s award as the best player in Europe last season after helping Portugal to win the European Championship and having another stellar campaign for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo, a favorite for a fourth world player of the year award, beat club teammate Gareth Bale of Wales and Atletico Madrid’s France star Antoine Griezmann.

The vote, by journalists from UEFA’s 55 member countries, was announced at the Champions League draw Thursday.

Ronaldo also received the award in 2014. Lionel Messi (twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery previously won the award, which was first presented in 2011.

UEFA created the prize after the original European Footballer of the Year honor, known as the Ballon d’Or, merged with FIFA’s world player award.

Lyon forward Ada Hegerberg won the women’s award.


Sri Lanka seeks Indian subcontinent partner for completing half built port

Sri Lanka is seeking a partner from the Indian subcontinent to develop a port designed to be its deepest and accommodate the world’s largest container vessels, Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said on Thursday.

The Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) is looking for a foreign investor with about USD 400 million to complete the half-built East Container Terminal at the Colombo port, Ranatunga said.

“We are looking for an investor who should come in with a shipping operator from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh,” the minister told reporters in Colombo. He said the investor should partner a shipping line that could guarantee additional traffic of one million containers through the port of Colombo, which currently handles over five million containers a year.

The Sri Lankan government is keen to involve a company from the Indian subcontinent because about 75 percent of container traffic through Colombo is trans-shipment cargo from the region, the minister said.

He said the SLPA had spent USD 80 million to build 430 metres of a 1,200 metre-terminal which he hopes to complete with foreign capital. “We have no money to invest, but we want a 15 percent stake in a joint venture to develop this mega container terminal,” he added.

The project comes three years after the opening of the USD 500 million Chinese-built Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), which made Colombo the only mega port between Dubai and Singapore. Ranatunga said the East Container Terminal will be about two metres (yards) deeper, when completed, than the CICT.


Russia to work with US on response to Syria gas attacks report

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Russia said on Thursday it is prepared to work with the United States at the United Nations on how to respond to a report that blamed Syrian government forces for two chlorine gas attacks and Islamic State militants for using sulfur mustard gas.

The year-long UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inquiry, authorized by the Security Council, said Syrian Arab Air Force helicopters dropped toxic substances in Talmenes on April 21, 2014, and Sarmin on March 16, 2015. Both cases involved the use of chlorine.

It also determined there was sufficient information to conclude that Islamic State militants were the “only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulfur mustard gas in Marea on 21 August, 2015.”

“We have a joint interest in discouraging such things from happening, in preventing such things from happening, even in the fog of war,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. “It’s a very complicated report which needs to be studied by experts.”

Churkin said he spoke with US Ambassador Samantha Power and they would “see what can be done on the basis of this report” by the UN/OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).

The report’s results set the stage for a Security Council showdown between the five veto-wielding powers, likely pitting Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France over whether sanctions should be imposed.

“I saw … some in the media, predicting confrontation between Russia and the United States over it. It doesn’t have to be the case, let me tell you, because JIM is the creation of the US and Russian delegations working together,” Churkin told reporters.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday the Security Council had to respond firmly. French diplomatic sources said Paris wanted to push for a resolution that would force Russia to accept that its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had used banned weapons.