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Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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AFGHANISTAN  

Capital | Kabul FLAG DESCRIPTION: three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), red, and green, with the national emblem in white centered on the red band and slightly overlapping the other two bands; the center of the emblem features a mosque with pulpit and flags on either side, below the mosque are numerals for the solar year 1298 (1919 in the Gregorian calendar, the year of Afghan independence from the UK); this central image is circled by a border consisting of sheaves of wheat on the left and right, in the upper-center is an Arabic inscription of the Shahada (Muslim creed) below which are rays of the rising sun over the Takbir (Arabic expression meaning "God is great"), and at bottom center is a scroll bearing the name Afghanistan *note: Afghanistan had more changes to its national flag in the 20th century than any other country; the colors black, red, and green appeared on most of them

Population | 28,717,213 (July 2010 est)

Area | 647,500 SQ KM

Official Language | Afghan Persian

Holidays |

Currency |

Time Zone |

Best time to visit | April to June for clement weather

Connecting with the Culture  |

Read | Eric Newby's A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

Watch | Osama, directed by Sidiq Barmak, a poignant tale of a young girl forced to asssume a male identity to survive, and one of Afghanistans first post-Taliban movies.

Eat | qabli pulao (seasoned rice with mutton, almonds, grated carrots and raisins); apricots dried in mountain villages

Drink | green tea scented with cardamon

In a word | Salam alekum (peace be with you) a ubiquitous greeting and blessing; Borou bekheir (travel well)

Characteristics | Men with moustaches and turbans; women in head-to-toe veils; opium poppies; snow topped mountain vistas; intricate weaves of tribal rugs; oasis of cities looming on the horizon

Surprises |  Overwhelming hospitality and spontanious generosity; historical treasures; perfectly blue skies; melons and mulberies. 

NEWS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: 

Afghanistan: Taliban Commander says `Group Can't Win'

(Video: AlJazeera)  

(HN, 7/12/12) - One of the most senior Taliban commanders in Afghanistan has admitted that it is unlikely the insurgents can win the war there, according to an interview published by Britain's New Statesman magazine. The identity of the Taliban leader is not revealed but the interview was conducted by Taliban expert & author Michael Semple, who was a UN envoy to Afghanistan & is now with the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.  "It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war," the commander, who is referred to only as Mawlvi (mullah) tells Semple, according to excerpts of the interview on the magazine's website. "The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect." (Read More at the Times of India)

(AsiaTimes, 3/20/12) - Western countries scramble for Afghan exits -  As international forces prepare for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Western countries are already in talks with Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors to bring their troops and military equipment back home.  The Pakistani route and the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) running through Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan are the two viable routes for international forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.  By Fozil Mashrab

Afghanistan's Talliban suspend talks with US

President Karzai says Afghan troops should take the lead for nationwide security next year(HN, 3/13/12) - The Taliban in Afghanistan have suspended nascent talks with the US over opening an office in Qatar. The US had been trying to set up a dialogue with the Taliban in the Gulf state for some time. Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has called for Nato-led forces to move out of Afghan villages and rural areas after a US soldier killed 16 civilians. He told the visiting US defence secretary Afghan troops should take the lead for nationwide security in 2013. (READ MORE from the BBC)  

US Sergeant is said to kill 16 in Afghanistan 

The bodies of several men and a child who witnesses said were killed by a United States Army sergeant in southern Afghanistan. (Allauddin Khan/Associated Press)

 

(3.11.12) - PANJWAI, Afghanistan — Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said. Following the attacks, the Taliban threatened vengeance, as the insurgents often do after Western actions they depict as atrocities. A Taliban statement posted online on Monday denounced the killings, saying they were the latest in a series of humiliations against the Afghan people and denying that any Taliban fighters had been in the area. (READ MORE from The NY Times

UPDATE:  Afghan officials attacked over US killings  and US soldier could face death for killing spree 

 

 

Afghans protest over handling of Korans

(PHOTO: An Afghan man aims a sling shot toward soldiers during a protest outside Bagram Air Base on Tuesday/Shah Marai, AFP)(2.17.12) - The NATO commander in Afghanistan issued an apology on Tuesday after troops were said to have “improperly disposed” of religious materials. (READ MORE from the NYTIMES