India: Self-styled godman Asaram sentenced to life imprisonment for rape of a teenage girl

ICMD, April 25, 2018 A Jodhpur court on Wednesday convicted self-styled godman Asaram and sentenced him to life imprisonment for the rape of a teenage girl at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur in 2013. The verdict was pronounced in the TADA court in the Jodhpur Central Jail amidst high security, apprehending a threat to law and order from his followers. Judge Madhusudan Sharma also convicted two other accused — Shilpi Gupta and Sharatchandra — in the case and awarded them jail term of 20 years each. Asaram was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur in 2013.

25th April 2018, World Malaria Day

Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected. According to the most recent World Malaria Report, the global tally of malaria reached 429,000 malaria deaths and 212 million new cases in 2015. The rate of new malaria cases fell by 21 per cent globally between 2010 and 2015, and malaria death rates fell by 29 per cent in the same period. In sub-Saharan Africa, case incidence and death rates fell by 21 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively.

Suicide attack on Kabul voter registration centre kills 31

KABUL: ICMD, April 22, 2018 An Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 31 people including women and children and wounded dozens outside a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday in the latest attack on election preparations. The assaults underscore growing concerns about security in the lead-up to legislative elections scheduled for October 20, which are seen as a test-run for next year’s presidential poll. “It happened at the entrance gate of the centre. It was a suicide attack,” Dawood Amin, city police chief, told AFP. Both the health and interior ministries confirmed the latest toll for the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group via its propaganda arm Amaq. “The final death toll from today’s terrorist attack in Kabul reached 31 martyred and 54 wounded. All the victims were civilians and women and children are among them,” Najib Danish, interior ministry spokesperson, posted on Facebook. The centre in the heavily neighbourhood in the west of the city was also being used by people to register for national identification certificates, which they need to sign up to vote. The last major attack in Kabul was on March 21 when an IS suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd celebrating the Persian New Year holiday, killing at least 33 people. Afghanistan began registering voters on April 14 for the long-delayed legislative elections. Officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern as the Taliban and other militant groups control or contest large swathes of the country. Afghan police and troops have been tasked with protecting polling centres, even as they struggle to get the upper hand against insurgents on the battlefield. Militants on Friday launched rockets at a voter registration centre in the northwestern province of Badghis. At least one police officer was killed and another person was wounded, officials said, blaming the Taliban. On Tuesday gunmen attacked a voter registration centre in the central province of Ghor, kidnapping three election workers and two policemen. Over the next two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million adults at more than 7,000 polling centres for the parliamentary and district council elections. – Courtesy AFP

India: Death penalty for rape of girls below 12 approved

ICMD, April 22, 2018 President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday promulgated an ordinance to pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved the ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping girls under 12 years. New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018. It stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said quoting the ordinance. The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment, they said. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict’s “natural life". The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict, the officials said. Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence, they said. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will now stand amended. The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months. The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months, the officials said. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed. There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years. -- Courtesy PTI/TH

Congress, six other parties move to impeach Chief Justice of India

ICMD, April 20, 2018 Opposition parties, led by the Congress, on Friday met Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and handed over a notice for impeachment of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. The CPI, CPI(M), NCP, SP, BSP and the IUML are the parties that have agreed to the motion. At a press conference, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We have moved a motion for impeachment against the CJI, on five grounds of misbehaviour. According to the Constitution, a minimum of 50 members are required to agree to the motion.” Mr. Azad claimed to have 71 members supporting the motion. "We wish that this day had never come. As representatives of people we are entitled to hold the CJI accountable just as we are accountable," said Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal. The leaders of the Opposition parties met Mr. Azad in his chamber in Parliament earlier in the day. After the meeting, he confirmed that the leaders were moving the notice for impeachment. The Opposition has been working on bringing various parties on board for a larger consensus on bringing an impeachment motion against the CJI. While the Left parties, the NCP and the Congress are on board for moving a motion, some parties that signed the petition have backed out. -- The Hindu

April 18, Independence Day of Zimbabwe

April 18, 2018 Karachi: ICMD Zimbabwe was only recognized in April 1980. The country has a population of 14.2 million people (2016 est.), most commonly spoken languages are English, Shona and Ndebele. A landlocked country in South East Africa, separated from Zambia by the Zambezi River. The Limpopo River in south forms part of the border with South Africa, it is bordered in east by Mozambique and in west by Botswana. The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. The US Dollar is the official currency in Zimbabwe. Sterling, Rand and Pula cash are also widely accepted.

Trump gives his blessing to talks with North Korea

ICMD, April 17, 2018 President Donald Trump Tuesday confirmed direct contacts between the United States and North Korea and gave his blessing to talks aimed at formally ending the Korean War in a series of diplomatic revelations. Raising expectations for a major breakthrough at a series of upcoming summits, Trump said “a great chance to solve a world problem” was within reach on the Korean peninsula. Side-by-side with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida resort, the US president said that a rare inter-Korean summit in 10 days’ time could, with his “blessing,” discuss an elusive peace treaty to formally close the 1950-53 conflict, which concluded with an armistice. “People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war,” he said. “Subject to a deal they have my blessing and they do have my blessing to discuss that.” Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have not spoken directly, the White House said, but the US president confirmed that Washington and Pyongyang had been in contact at “very high levels” to prepare for a historic meeting between them. The Washington Post reported that CIA director Mike Pompeo had met Kim on a secret trip to the North over the first weekend of April, shortly after he was nominated to be secretary of state. Both the White House and the CIA declined to comment on the report. “Five locations” were being considered for the summit with Kim, Trump said. “That will be taking place probably in early June or before that assuming things go well. It is possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken.” Officials say that no decision has yet been made on a meeting venue, but China, North Korea, South Korea, and Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas are seen as possible locations. Panmunjom was the site of the signing of the 1953 armistice and will be the location of the April 27 summit between Kim and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Officials from the two Koreas were to meet Wednesday in preparation, after Seoul’s Culture Minister — who sat next to Kim at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang earlier this month — said Tuesday that Seoul “thinks that the inter-Korean summit should lead to the signing of a peace treaty”. The US-led United Nations command, China and North Korea are signatories to the half-century-old armistice, but most experts agree South Korea would likely have to sign any successor agreement — which could need extensive negotiations. Trump’s announcements somewhat overshadowed bilateral talks with his golfing buddy Abe, in which both leaders were eager to iron out differences on trade and display a united front on North Korea. “Donald, you have demonstrated your unwavering determination” Abe said, effusively praising Trump’s handling of the North Korea crisis. He thanked Trump for agreeing to bring up the issue of Japanese abductees taken to North Korea, a major domestic issue. “This reflects your deep understanding for how Japan cares about this abduction issue. I am very grateful for your commitment.” Last year, Trump and Abe traded fist bumps and high fives as they snuck in a round of golf in Palm Beach and a return leg near Tokyo, tucking into burgers with ketchup for good measure. The two leaders have a chunk of time free Wednesday and Trump indicated they would try to play 18 holes. “This is a very important meeting, a lot of really key issues are on the line,” said Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic advisor. But with Abe’s approval rating languishing at its lowest level in years and Trump mired in controversies and crises too numerous to list, both are under domestic pressure. Trump could do with a political victory — perhaps in the form of opening up trade negotiations with Japan — as he seeks to calm an increasingly restless and crisis-weary base. Amid the tumult, Trump has taken a harder line on his promise to rewrite the global terms of trade in America’s favor. Trump has announced tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports, hit out at what he called European Union protectionism and warned he may walk away from a longstanding trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Abe was cautious on trade ahead of the talks, saying only that he would “exchange opinions based on our shared understanding that Japan and the United States will lead the economic growth of the Indo-Pacific region through free and fair trade.” So far Trump has proven flexible about Abe’s reluctance to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement. But Japan’s protectionist agriculture and auto markets could well be Trump’s next target, unless Abe can use his friendship to tee-up a compromise. -- Courtesy AFP

17th April, Syria National Day

Once the center of the Islamic Caliphate, Syria covers an area that has seen invasions and occupations over the ages, from Romans and Mongols to Crusaders and Turks.There's been a civil war in Syria for the last seven years, with different groups trying to seize control of the country. The fighting is between:  Soldiers who support the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad  Fighters known as rebels, who don't want Assad to be in power anymore  The group that calls itself Islamic State  The Syrian government's key supporters are Russia and Iran, while the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia back the rebels. The UK, France and other western countries have also provided varying levels of support to what they consider to be "moderate" rebels. The Syrian Arab Republic Capital: Damascus Population: 21.1 million Area: 185,180 sq km Major Language: Arabic Major Religion: Islam, Christianity Life Expectancy: 74 years (men), 78 years (women) Currency: Syrian Pound

Putin predicts global ‘chaos’ if West hits Syria again

ICMD, Arpril 15, 2018 Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, while signs emerged that Moscow and Washington want to pull back from the worst crisis in their relations for years. Putin made his remarks in a telephone conversation with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani after the United States, France and Britain launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday over a suspected poison gas attack. A Kremlin statement said Putin and Rouhani agreed that the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the multi-sided, seven-year conflict that has killed at least half a million people. “Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” a Kremlin statement said. The attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, Washington said, in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack a week ago. All three participants insisted the strikes were not aimed at toppling President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the conflict. The bombings, hailed by US President Donald Trump as a success but denounced by Damascus and its allies as an act of aggression, marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and ally Russia, whose foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called them “unacceptable and lawless”.

Saudi Arabia's first new cinema in decades to open April 18

Karachi: ICMD 14 April, 2018, Movie theatres will not be segregated by gender like most other public places in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom, and the first screening will be Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther.” Saudi Arabia had some cinemas in the 1970s but its powerful clerics closed them, reflecting rising Islamist influence throughout the Arab region at the time. In 2017, the government said it would lift the ban as part of ambitious economic and social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is currently touring the United States seeking investments to help broaden the economy and lessen its dependence on oil. Saudi Arabians are avid consumers of Western media and culture. Despite the cinema ban, Hollywood films and recent television series are widely watched at home and discussed. AMC’s first cinema will be located in the King Abdullah Financial District in a building originally intended to be a symphony concert hall, AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron said in an interview. The main theater will have about 500 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels and marble bathrooms, he said. Three more screens will be added by mid-summer. “We think it’s going to be the prettiest movie theater in the world,” Aron said. “It’s a dramatic building.” To serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30, Saudi Arabia wants to set up around 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, which it hopes will attract nearly $1 billion in annual ticket sales. “The restoration of cinemas will ... help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom,” Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement. AMC is partnering with the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund. Reuters