June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

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)



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



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Capital | New DelhiFLAG DESCRIPTION: three equal horizontal bands of saffron (subdued orange) (top), white, and green, with a blue chakra (24-spoked wheel) centered in the white band; saffron represents courage, sacrifice, and the spirit of renunciation; white signifies purity and truth; green stands for faith and fertility; the blue chakra symbolizes the wheel of life in movement and death in stagnation note: similar to the flag of Niger, which has a small orange disk centered in the white band

Population | 1,156,897,766 (July 2010 est.)

Area | 3,287,590 SQ KM

Official Language | Hindi, English, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Sanskrit

Holidays | Republic Day, 26 January (1950)

Currency | Indian rupees (INR)

Time Zone | UTC+5.5

Best Time to Visit | November to March (when its cooler)

Connecting with the Culture | Watching the sunrise at the Taj Mahal; Floating to Udaipur’s Lake Palace; Cruising down a Keralan river on a houseboat; Kicking back on a Goan beach; Taking a camel safari in Rajasthan; Relaxing in Shimla hill station resort

Read | Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, tales from the Vedic era of WWII, or VS Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now, a Trinidadian’s take on India’s tribulations and triumphs  

Listen | to Lata Mangeshkar’s The Greatest Film Songs – the diva extraordinaire sings Bollywood hits, or to Ravi Shankar’s In Celebration – the world’s greatest satirist plays classical with fusion

Watch | Mother India, India’s answer to The Grapes of Wrath; Gandhi, the epic film what made Ben Kingsley famous or any Bollywood flick

Eat | tandoori chicken, dhal, dosas, samosas, curries  

Drink | lassi ( a sweet or savoury yogurt drink) or toddy (fermented palm sap)

In a Word | Are vah! (holy cow! – not literally)  

Characteristics | Cows in streets; snake charmers; world’s largest slums; Bollywood; maharajahs in palaces; rickshaws; gods and goddesses; computer geeks

Surprises | Cities have killer nightlife scenes; most food isn’t spicy hot; English is the de facto national language; for the most part Hindu’s and Muslims live together peacefully.


India Swears in New President

(Video: IBNTimes)

(HN, 7/25/12) - India's Pranab Mukherjee, 76, was sworn in as the country's 13th democratically elected President at a ceremony in the packed & historic Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi today.  A little later he gave his predecessor, Pratibha Patil, a ceremonial send off at the presidential palace. PM Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi & all ministers were present to bid her farewell. At the inauguration, Mr. Mukherjee, an MP for over 40 years, was given a 21-gun salute & made a speech discussing the problems of hunger & global terrorism; democracy & secularism. He spoke in English & ended with Jai Hind. VP Hamid Ansari read out a Hindi translation of the beginning & end of the President's speech. (Full text of Pranab Mukherjee's speech) With 1.2 billion citizens, India is the world's second-most populous country next to China. (Read more at NDTV)

India soldiers patrol Assam state following deadly riots

(PHOTO: Stranded passengers fleeing Assam at Guwahati Railway Station on Wednesday/PTI)(HN, 7/25/12) - The death toll from ethnic violence in Assam rose to 40 on Wednesday, as military reinforcements were called in to quell more than 4 days of clashes which pit members of the ethnic Bodo community against Muslim settlers who mostly came from the former East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh in 1971. The violence broke out in the district of Kokrajhar when 2 Muslim student leaders were shot & injured, leading to revenge strikes on Bodo groups. The main cause of the present clash between Bodo tribals & immigrant Muslims is control over land.  (Read more at the Hindustan Times)

World's Second-Largest Country Loses Power


(Video IBNTimes)  

(HN, 7/3/12) - Even before north India could recover from Monday's crippling power failure, 3 transmission grids in this country of 1.2 billion people - the Northern, Eastern & North-eastern - collapsed again Tuesday leaving almost half the nation's residents in 21 states in the dark.  Affected included Delhi, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam & Union Territory of Chandigarh. The event crippled traffic, travel, & trains. Miners in West Bengal & Jharkhand were stuck in coal mines. Like yesterday, at about 1pm, the grid collapse began from Agra & cascaded through.

(PHOTO: Commuters walk past delay boards in a New Delhi train station/TOI, Altaf Qadri)Power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde appealed to states not to overdraw more electricity than their quota, which is what has been suspected to have caused the event - though the UP government said taking into consideration the parameters at the time of grid failure there was no reason to believe power operations by the state triggered the collapse. Currently, the central government has said that electricity has been restored in close to 80% of the areas in the northern region, including the national capital, which were severely impacted by power failure since Tuesday’s afternoon. (Read more at ZEENEWS)

Indian Ferry, With No Passenger Manifest, Sinks 

(Video TOILive)

(HN, 4/30/12) - A packed ferry capsized in heavy winds & rain in the remote northeastern India state of Assam, on the Brahmaputra river near Fakiragram in west Dhubri district close to where the river enters Bangladesh; leaving at least 35 people dead & 165 others feared missing in the late afternoon. Authorities said the boat was carrying about 350 passengers - women, children, farmers, fishermen & other local people, when it broke into two pieces. About 150 people who were traveling on the top level were rescued or swam to safety. Details were sketchy as the remoteness of the area hampered communications.

(PHOTO: Packed boats such as these are used worldwide to travel people, daily/ALAMY)The area is dotted with riverside settlements & small islands, & overcrowded boats are the most common mode of transport, with little regard for safety regulations. In one of the last major ferry disasters in India, at least 79 Muslim pilgrims drowned when an overcrowded boat sank in the eastern state of West Bengal in eastern India. In March this year, some 138 people died in neighboring Bangladesh when an overloaded ferry carrying 200 people sank in the Meghna river southeast of the capital Dhaka. (Read more at TIMESOFINDIA)

India: The Woman Behind the Missile

(Video StarTV)  

(HN, 4/19/12) - At 8:07AM on Thursday, when India’s 1st inter-continental ballistic missile tore into the overcast sky of Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast, all eyes were on 1 woman on the ground - 49 year old chief scientist of missile Project Agni-V, Tessy Thomas whose team spent the past 3 years building the missile. By Thursday night, Thomas was back in Hyderabad & celebrating with her colleagues at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) office.   Thomas grew up in Kerala close to the Thumba launching station, watching rocket launches & dreaming about them. After alot of hard work, a B Tech & an M Tech later, she joined the almost all-male DRDO ‘club’ in 1988.

(PHOTO: Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-5 test fired from Odisa coast, India, 4.19.12/Hindustan Times)Thomas says she's always considered herself a “scientist”, even becoming the favorite pupil of former President & ‘missile man’ APJ Abdul Kalam. Thomas is the 1st woman scientist in the country to head a missile program.  Tho, 1 major challenge she says has been in striking a balance between a career & a regular family life. For many years Thomas has had to be apart from her husband Saroj Kumar, a commodore in the Indian Navy, who she met during her M Tech in Pune & her son Tejas, an engineering student. (Read more at the Hindustan Times)

Tibetan battles for life after self immolation act in India

(Photo: Witnesses trying to douse 27-year-old Jamphel Yeshi/Naval Hans)(HN, 3/25/12) - Hundreds of Tibetans gathered outside Jantar Mantar in India on Monday to protest China's President Hu's visit to New Delhi on March 28 for the upcoming  2012 BRICS Summit - chanting “Free Tibet” against the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet. In their midst the screams of 27-year-old Jamphel Yeshi, who set himself ablaze pierced the air. Engulfed in flames, the Delhi-based Tibetan ran 50 meters before collapsing as police & protesters tried to douse him.  Yeshi was rushed to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where he is in critical condition in ICU. Doctors say he has suffered burns on 98% of his body.Pamphlets distributed by protest organizers, the Tibetan Youth Congress, stated that on 12 March 12, 1912 a battle broke out between the Chinese & the Tibetan resulting in Tibet forcing the Chinese army out & becoming ‘independent’, In the past year 29 Tibetans, mainly in their 20s, have immolated themselves to draw global attention to China’s oppression of Tibet. According to Buddhist beliefs, self immolation prevents the soul’s rebirth as a human, a regression from the ultimate goal of attaining Nirvana, the goal of Buddhism.  (Read more at Tehelka

Women in India get right to share husbands' property

(PHOTO: BNO) (HN, 3/22/12) - In India on Friday a bill giving women the right to share in her husband's property was approved by the Union Cabinet.  Apart from giving women the right to their husband's property, the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, also aims to give rights to adopted children on par with biological off-springs.  The cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  According to the Cabinet Note, while a wife can "oppose a husband's plea for a divorce under the new `irretrievable breakdown of marriage' clause, the husband will have no such rights to oppose if the wife moves the court on the same grounds".  (Read more at IBNLive)