External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at a UN meeting. India’s diplomacy led to 14 of the 15 UN Security Council members supporting the blacklisting of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.twitter/@MEAIndiaChina’s technical veto of an India-inspired United Nations Security Council (UNSC) move to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammed and its leader Masood Azhar once again exposed its extreme vulnerability to Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) blackmail, analysts say. The fact that the terrorist leader has claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir killing 43 paramilitary personnel and pushing nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of war after Indian Air Force’s Balakot strike did not deter Beijing from blocking the motion. The move to proscribe JeM was initiated by the US, UK and France, the three permanent UNSC members, but China placed a technical hold on the resolution that is initially valid for three months but may be extended further.G Parthasarathy, international affairs analyst and India’s former ambassador in Islamabad, has said the compulsions of China in backing Pakistan are understandable. He said on broadcast media that the recent UN resolution should still be considered a big success for India as 14 of the 15 members including four permanent members except China stood with India.China’s eagerness to shield Masood Azhar, a strategic asset the ISI has nurtured over many years, arises from its dilemma of having painted itself into a corner with no way out without damaging its own work of a long time, defence analysts say. China cannot ignore the fact that its personnel deployed in thousands across different projects in Pakistan are soft targets for any ISI-inspired terror attack. There have been instances of terror elements targeting Chinese engineers working in the hundreds of strategic and economic projects that China is financing in Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan. Despite China’s criticism of Pakistan-based terror outfits’ support to terrorism in Xinjiang province, Beijing has been reluctant to condemn attacks on India by terrorists based on Pakistani soil. ReutersIn the past, Chinese personnel working in the Gwadar port of Baluchistan province were repeatedly abducted for ransom or killed. There are thousands of Chinese experts working on the $62-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which offers China direct access to the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Chinese tourists visiting the scenic Gilgit-Baltistan region have also borne the brunt of terrorist wrath when the Pakistani deep state has apparently looked away. At some point, Beijing became so worried about the security situation in Pakistan that it forced Pakistan to let its own forces provide security cover for personnel working in some vital projects.Though Beijing has on several occasions criticized Islamabad for its failure to rein in terror elements based in Gilgit-Baltistan creating problems in its Xinjiang province, successive Chinese governments have been silent about the Pakistan-based terror elements tormenting India. Beijing has a genuine problem of Islamist-inspired insurgency in among the Uighur Muslims whose Xinjiang home connects with the CPEC.Chinese President Xi Jinping is invested heavily in the prestigious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and has to tread a cautious line as he cannot afford to antagonize the ISI or the JeM. Either of them can easily disrupt the hub the of OBOR which is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC is also the vital link between OBOR and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road project that links Southeast Asia, Oceania and North Africa through the contiguous shipping routes of South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean.China periodically warns its nationals in Pakistan likely “terrorist attacks”. According to an NDTV report of December 2017, China warned the workers who were working on Xi’s OBOR development of imminent terror attacks. “It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organisations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.Still, Beijing has been emphasising “responsible and serious discussions” to resolve the matter, rather than proscribing the terror fountainheads in Pakistan. “Only by making a decision through responsible and serious discussions can we resolve the issue in a sustainable manner,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a media briefing in Beijing ahead of the deadline for the resolution to go through, flagging his country’s intention to thwart the resolution.This was the fourth time that China blocked on technical grounds UNSC bid for designating Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Kang said Beijing saw recent escalation between India and Pakistan as “not conducive to the peace and stability in South Asia” and said it mediated to defuse the situation. However, Beijing did not find it necessary to prevent similar situations from developing in future, especially when Masood Azhar has threatened more attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.US President Donald Trump has been critical of Pakistan’s record in containing terrorism from its soil and asked Beijing to help rein in Islamabad. However, China has resisted global pressure so far. The closest Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to some concession from China was when it let Pakistan be kept on the ‘grey list’ of the UN’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that censures nations found to be failing to control funding to terror outfits. Even that concession came after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wound down opposition to excluding Pakistan’s name from a joint statement.
Thursday, January 11, 2018 Share California’s Montecito is devastated by mudslides By: Marcio Jose Sanchez and Robert JablonSource: The Associated Press MONTECITO, Calif. — The number of people missing since mudslides engulfed this wealthy coastal town surged to 48 Thursday as hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies. The number of confirmed dead stood at 17.The huge increase in those unaccounted for came as authorities investigated missing-persons reports, said Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson.The number has fluctuated since the disaster struck in the early morning darkness Tuesday and was as low as 16 Wednesday evening. The new count raised fears that the disaster was far worse than authorities imagined.Family members have been anxiously awaiting word on loved ones as the search goes on.“It’s just waiting and not knowing, and the more I haven’t heard from them _ we have to find them,” said Kelly Weimer, whose elderly parents’ home was wrecked. The couple, Jim and Alice Mitchell, did not heed a voluntary evacuation warning and stayed home to celebrate Jim Mitchell’s 89th birthday.As search dogs clambered on heaps of wood that used to be homes, mud-spattered rescue teams from all over California worked their way through the ruins of Montecito, an enclave of 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.It was left covered with thick muck, boulders, wrecked cars, splintered lumber and tree limbs in a scene Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown likened to a World War I battlefield.More news: Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agencyAfter a better look at the damage, officials lowered the number of destroyed homes from 100 to 59 and raised the number of damaged ones from 300 to 446.Overall, 28 people were injured. Twelve remained hospitalized, four in critical condition.By Wednesday, some 500 searchers had covered about 75 per cent of the inundated area, authorities said. They had a long slog ahead, filled with hazards seen and unseen.“A lot of the street signs are gone, the roads are impassable. It all has to be done on foot,” said Deputy Dan Page, chief of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department rescue team.Rescue crews worked up to 12 hours a day and risked stepping on nails or shattered glass, or being exposed to raw sewage, or dealing with leaking gas, Page said.“We’ve gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud,” said Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief. “The mud is acting like a candy shell on ice cream. It’s crusty on top but soft underneath, so we’re having to be very careful.”Crews marked where bodies were found, often far away from a home, and used that information to guess where other victims might have ended up as the surging mud carried or buried them.People in Montecito had counted themselves lucky last month after the biggest wildfire in California history spared the town. But it was the fire that led to the mudslide, by burning away vegetation.More news: A new low for no-frills flying: easyJet assigns backless seat to passenger“We totally thought we were out of the woods,” said Jennifer Markham, whose home escaped damage in both disasters. “I was frozen yesterday morning thinking, ‘This is a million times worse than that fire ever was.”’The mudslides were already occurring when Santa Barbara County officials first sent emergency alerts to cellphones in the area, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.For days, the county had issued repeated warnings via social media, news media and emails about the potential for mudslides. But county emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to use the cellphone push alert system until 3:50 a.m. Tuesday out of concern it might not be taken seriously.Only an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of residents fled when ordered, and much of the damage occurred where evacuations were voluntary.It could take days or even longer before the work is finished.“That’s always our mentality: ‘Hey, we’re going to find someone alive,”’ Page said. “You never really know. You never know exactly what the human body is capable of.”In 2014, a mudslide in rural Oso in Washington state killed 43 people. The last body was found four months later. << Previous PostNext Post >>
Tags: Christmas, Insight Vacations, New Tours TORONTO — Insight Vacations has no fewer than eight Christmas Markets journeys in its ‘2018-19 Seasons – Autumn, Winter and Spring’ lineup. “Travel during the festive season adds such a significant touch to the overall experience and we received positive feedback from our loyal Canadian agents about the increasing popularity of our Christmas Markets program,” says Brad Ford, President, Insight Vacations Canada. “The holiday season is a time to build incredible memories and our carefully curated Insight Experiences are so rich in festive cheer, sampling local specialties and unique highlights that will create memories to last a lifetime and allow guests to experience Christmas like never before.” Here’s a look at three of the trips:Alpine Christmas MarketsThis 10-day itinerary takes clients through traditional German towns and the snow-frosted Alps. Munich embraces the holiday season with a flourish, and “there is no better place for guests to begin their trip”. Highlights include Christkindlmarkt and Salzburg, where a Local Expert takes travellers to Mozart’s family home, and where travellers can take in the 500-year-old Christmas Market in front of the cathedral. In Strasbourg guests will explore France’s largest and Europe’s oldest Christmas Market. Meanwhile Zurich is home to Europe’s biggest indoor Christmas extravaganza, held inside the main railway station with a three-storey Christmas tree, draped with twinkling Swarovski crystals.Christmas Markets of Poland, Prague & GermanyClients on this nine-day regional journey through Poland, Czech Republic and Germany start with time in Krawków, where the Christmas Market takes place on the Main Market Square with roasted chestnuts and traditional ‘oscypek’ cheese with cranberries. With a Local Expert, guests journey on for picturesque views from Prague Castle, which give way to the decorated Old Town Square with its giant Christmas tree draped in twinkling lights and surrounded by decorative wooden stalls. Then it’s on to Germany, known by many as the ultimate European destination for Christmas Markets, with stops in Dresden and Berlin.Christmas Markets of Austria & BavariaThis nine-day itinerary begins in Vienna with a private walk through the opulent Schönbrunn Palace. Once at the Viennese Christmas Market, a local stallholder is on hand with Viennese winter desserts paired with Glühwein. The trip then heads to Salzburg and on to Oberammergau and its colourful painted chalets, and King Ludwig II’s fairy-tale castle in Neuschwanstein. A final day is spent in Munich at the Christmas Market of Marienplatz, complete with carol sing-alongs, tasty treats and a tree lit up with 3,000 candles. Plenty of choice – and cheer – with Insight’s Christmas Markets << Previous PostNext Post >> Share Travelweek Group Thursday, September 6, 2018 Posted by