Pakistan attack: Kills 81, renews fear of Taliban


NEW DELHI - A pair of suicide bombers killed 81 people outside a church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday in the deadliest attack yet on the country's Christian minority, reviving fears that the newly installed government is powerless to stop the resurgent Taliban's reign of terror.

The attack on the 19th-century All Saints Church in Peshawar took place as hundreds of worshippers were streaming out of the church, police chief Mohammad Ali Babakhel told the newspaper Dawn.

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Federal reserve: Cast shadow over India


NEW DELHI — Travelospin, a medium-sized travel agency, occupies a prominent spot in a large commercial complex in the central Indian city of Jaipur's affluent shopping district of Vaishali Nagar. Surrounded by the large showrooms of international brands such as Nike and Levi's, Travelospin is one of the thousands of small travel agencies that popped up in the past decade after India liberalized its economy.

Then, Indian middle-class families found themselves with cash to spare and a desire to travel. Firms like Travelospin rushed in to cater to them. With the recent declines in Indian rupee, though — the currency fell by nearly 20% in the past three months against the dollar — it looks like the honeymoon is over.

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Pakistan ex-leader: Musharraf charged in Bhutto death

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAK130912aa001.jpegLAHORE, Pakistan - The murder indictment Tuesday of Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former military chief and president, in the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is the first time an army chief has been charged with a crime in Pakistan.

That means the landmark case is sure to draw the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for about three decades, into the fray. And a decade-long rivalry between the country's two most powerful political families will be stirred into the judicial process.

Read more at USA Today

Immigration debate: Ensnares foreign workers


NEW DELHI - Sukh Singh had a college degree in mechanical engineering and a dream of working in the United States, but that seemed impossible from his small farming village in northern India.

Then a man named Sukhwinder came to town in November. He says he had just come back from America. He dressed the part, with designer jeans, distinct T-shirts and "fancy sunglasses." He even talked the part, sporting close to an American accent. He says he could help college grads find a job in a big American city for a big engineering firm. Ears perked up when he mentioned Austin as a possible destination.

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Myanmar forests: Facing new risks


With the lifting of economic sanctions, Myanmar is opening its doors to big agribusinesses in palm oil and rubber. It's good for the economy, but not for the country's natural resources, especially its forests.

Branches heavy with dark green leaves and wooden tendrils hang across a winding path beaten flat by the stomping feet of elephants training for a life of logging . Now just learning the trade, the animals carry tourists on their backs through the deep jungle, trundling over undergrowth and through bubbling streams before being released at night to wander the area with their free cousins.

Read more at Deutsche Welle

Defending Japan: Foreign-born media watchdogs


Have the foreign media got it in for Japan? Do they unduly focus on, and sensationalize, Fukushima radiation leaks, alleged racial intolerance and the self-aggrandizing policy pronouncements of the reborn Liberal Democratic Party? Worse still, are non-Japanese journalists prejudicing perceptions of Japan in the wider world, further eroding the nation's global significance?

Though right-wing Japanese apologists have long identified, in the words of Michael Cucek, research associate with the MIT Center for International Studies, "the existence of an international cabal of anti-Japanese media types," some ardent foreign-born Japan residents are also defending their adopted home from "Japan-hating" media.
Read more at The Japan Times

Japan's glory: Returning to the golden days


TOKYO - In an effort to climb back to its Walkman glory days, Japan is investing heavily in R&D, especially in its technology strongholds. But the culture may not have the same appetite for risk as its competitors and may be outpaced by more aggressive countries, experts say.

When Japan exclusively developed and manufactured Walkmans, Honda hatchbacks and Nintendos, it was set to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy. Today, Japan continues to be a world-leading high-tech innovator. Yet in commercial terms, the competition has caught up, and is often running ahead. As the Apples and Samsungs of the world outcompete Sony and Panasonic, Japanese companies are trying to revive the country's economic miracle.

Read more at The Globe and Mail

Indian outrage: Sexual-assaults spark anger

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IND130607aa001.jpegNEW DELHI - Outrage grew Wednesday over a series of sexual assaults that have rocked India with protests since last year after an American tourist was gang-raped and robbed Tuesday by three men while on her way back to her hotel.

"What kind of a message are we trying to send -- that we are hostile to women?" said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, a woman's rights group. "The government has to buck up and ensure safety for female tourists."

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Pakistan vote: Democracy at work, despite violence

PML-N Headquarters, Pakistan CC colincookmanKARACHI, Pakistan — Despite protests over vote-rigging Sunday, many heralded Pakistan's election as a historic democratic exercise in a country known for its military takeovers.

"It would be stupidity to have expected a 100% free and fair (election), but we are leaps and bounds ahead of what came before," said 30-year-old Hareem Sumbul, who worked at a Karachi polling station.

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Pakistan's election: Sharif victory amid violence

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAK130517003.jpegKARACHI - Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared victory as unofficial, partial vote counts showed his party with an overwhelming lead following a historic election marred by violence Saturday, including a string of attacks that killed 29 people.

If his victory is confirmed, it would be a remarkable comeback for the 63-year-old Sharif, who has twice served as the country's premier but was toppled in a military coup in 1999. He spent years in exile before returning to the country in 2007. His party weathered a strong campaign by former cricket star Imran Khan that energized Pakistan's young people.

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Pakistani election: Threat of violence looms large


LAHORE - With terrorism happening almost daily, Pakistan faces a crucial test in elections this weekend that violent Taliban jihadists who seek a Muslim theocracy have vowed to ruin.

Saturday's elections will be the first peaceful transition of power from one civilian government to another in Pakistan's history after decades of military rule that ended only five years ago.

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Fighting Taliban: Afghan villagers' struggle


ANDAR, Afghanistan -- Former Taliban commander Mullah Ramahtullah expresses contempt for the militants he once considered brothers in arms.

Though he still wears his hair long, as many Taliban members do, Ramahtullah says he has broken away from Afghanistan's former hard-line rulers and is supporting an uprising against them in a remote corner of Ghazni province known as Andar district.

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Gas shortage: Uzbekistan sparks calls for reform


TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — A repeat of last year's gasoline shortage in Uzbekistan is prompting calls for investment in and modernization of the Central Asian nation's oil industry.

Gas stations in the capital, Tashkent, began running out of fuel on Nov. 15, causing long lines of irate drivers seeking fuel. The crisis resembles last year's shortage: Normal supplies resumed after the New Year.

Read more at The Washington Times

Tajikistan's music: Rock music creates clashes


DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — The poorest of the former Soviet Central Asian states and arguably the most culturally conservative, Tajikistan is home to a small but growing rock-music scene in spite of the social pressures to conform and the difficulties finding a working guitar.

"Society doesn't like the music that we play," said Jack Rock, the stage name of the leader singer of Al Azif, Tajikistan's only "thrash metal" band. "Everybody always says that we are wasting time and we need to play softly and slowly."

Read more at The Washington Times

Central Asia: A new fight over water is looming


BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — A new fight over water is looming between Kyrgyzstan and its energy-rich Central Asian neighbors — and analysts say the likely winner could be Russia.

The former Soviet republics neighboring Kyrgyzstan have long accused it of hoarding its water resources, and Kyrgyz plans to dam a key river to generate electricity will likely reinvigorate those criticisms.

Read more at The Washington Times

Kyrgyzstan’s forests: Rescued by environmental groups


Kyrgyzstan — Environmental groups are aiming to rescue Kyrgyzstan's vast forests of fruits and nuts from the perils of overharvesting and climate change by improving the lives of the people who live and labor among the trees.

"Our fruit and nut forests cover [1.56 million acres] with more than 300 different species of tree," says Kaiyrkul Shalpykov of the National Academy of Sciences in Bishkek. "But the increasing numbers of people living in the forest and the economic situation in the country, as well as climate change, all impact the forests."

Read more at The Washington Times

Pakistani girls: 'Education is our right'

MINGORA, Pakistan — As Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai recovers from bullet wounds in a British hospital, her classmates say they will not let the Taliban extremists who put her there force them to quit school.

"Though we are very sad for our friend Malala, such mean actions would never discourage us and will never keep our attention from getting education," said Rida, a ninth-grade schoolmate of Malala's at Khushal School in Mingora, Swat Valley.

Read more at USA Today

Kyrgyz arrest: Ex-president's son possible bargaining chip


BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — This month's arrest of a deposed Kyrgyz president's son in London has generated speculation the he could become a bargaining chip in negotiations over a U.S. military base in this Central Asian country.

Kyrgyzstan has no extradition agreements with Britain or the U.S., but has said it wants to repatriate Maksim Bakiyev, son of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, so that he can face charges of corruption and abuse of power during his father's rule.

Read more at The Washington Times

Pakistani activist: Safety of teen threatened by Taliban


KARACHI, Pakistan -- The Taliban is threatening to finish off a 14-year-old Pakistani girl whom it shot for helping other girls go to school -- if she survives a wounding that has made her a hero to many Pakistanis.

Schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head and neck, was airlifted Thursday to a military hospital for her own protection after the attack that also injured two of her friends. A hospital spokesman described her condition as "satisfactory" Friday.

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Kyrgyzstan’s opposition: Stability risked by protests


BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Opposition politicians demanding the nationalization of the Canadian-owned Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan have been accused of an attempted coup, prompting analysts to warn that agitators are using the controversial foreign investment to plunge the revolution-prone Central Asian republic into further instability.

"There is a fear that with all the political turmoil and economic worries in recent years that Kyrgyzstan isn't a viable county and a fear that foreigners are here to stir things up and take the wealth and resources of Kyrgyzstan," said Nick Megoran, a senior lecturer specializing in Kyrgyzstan at Newcastle University in Britain. "By picking on the Kumtor case, a nationalist party like Ata-Jurt is able to press all sorts of populist buttons."

Read more at The Washington Times

Taliban attack: Pakistanis support young activist


KARACHI, Pakistan - Pakistanis expressed outrage Wednesday and schools closed in protest over the Taliban shooting of a 14-year-old girl who promoted education for girls in a region controlled by Islamists.

Malala Yousufzai was in the intensive care unit at a military hospital in Peshawar after undergoing surgery to remove a bullet in her neck, officials said. Flags flew at half-staff, and many held prayers for her recovery and demonstrations in her support.

Read more at USA Today

Kazakhstan's films: Debate on censorship and limited funding


ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Central Asia's film festival season is in full swing, and as movie buffs in cities like Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and Dushanbe sample some of the region's latest cinematic works, the debate on censorship and limited film funding is gaining fresh attention.

"Only in post-Soviet countries do we have this situation where [nearly] all cinema is sponsored by government," said Nikita Makarenko, producer of the Central Asian Festival of Independent Film in Tashkent.

Read more at The Washington Times

Uzbek scrutiny: Uzbeks bristle over web surveillance


BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — When Samir logs on to the Internet, he has to disguise his Web address to avoid official propaganda and protect himself from retaliation from his own government.

"In order to visit all the sites that I want, I use [Web proxies]. ... All sites that write the truth and promote debate are blocked. Without a [proxy], all I can access is state news, full of joy and happiness," said Samir, who like others interviewed for this article asked to be identified only by a first name.

Read more at The Washington Times

Uzbek government: Promise to end child labor


TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — Uzbekistan's prime minister pledged last month to end child labor in the country's cotton fields. But as the harvest season gets under way, human rights activists say children as young as 13 are being put to work under grueling conditions, despite extreme measures to recruit adult labor.

"Every year, from the beginning of the first days of September, the entire country is immersed in a cotton hysteria," said Hakim, a human rights activist based in Tashkent, who asked his last name not be used for fear of persecution.

Read more at The Washington Times

Hero's welcome: Axe-murderer back in Azerbaijan


BUDAPEST — Long-standing tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have escalated after an Azeri army officer who murdered an Armenian officer was given a hero's welcome on returning home after eight years in prison in Hungary last month.

"There is already a war of words, and I am very much concerned that a further stepping up of negative rhetoric will lead to violent clashes or even a new war," said Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian member of the European Parliament's EU-Armenia, EU-Azerbaijan and EU-Georgia committee, which is calling for the murderer to be imprisoned and his hero status revoked.

Read more at The Washington Times

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