Friday, 30 October 2015

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31 oct 2015

prepared by ashok sharma

The Hindu: October 31, 2015 00:39 IST Divisive innuendo



Desperation on the campaign trail is a guaranteed test of character. Faced with a stiff electoral challenge, contestants tend to fall back on core political beliefs to spell out the essential choice to voters. Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah certainly left nothing to nuance on Friday at an election rally in Raxaul in Bihar's East Champaran district. Should a BJP government not be formed in the State, he said, crackers would be burst in Pakistan. To drum up the rhetoric, he asked the assembled crowd if they would want that to happen. On cue, Sushil Modi, the BJP's seniormost State leader and till the 2013 BJP-Janata Dal (United) split Deputy Chief Minister to Nitish Kumar, reinforced the divisive innuendo. In the event of a BJP victory in Bihar, there would be Diwali in India, he posted on Twitter, and if the "UPA" won, there would be "celebration" in Pakistan. This is a spectacularly shameful attempt by a party that leads the national government to cast citizens of India who vote otherwise as unpatriotic. Sangh rabble-rousers have not exactly been subtle in using "Pakistan" as code for being untrue to India. In their invocation of the "Pakistan" reference point, Muslims' patriotism is brought into question, as well as of others who question or disagree with the BJP. In fact, in the 2002 State election campaign, Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat Chief Minister, freely addressed "Mian Musharraf" as a representative of all those who disagreed with him, and by implication all that was not good for India.



In the years since, Mr. Modi has remade his image. In the Lok Sabha campaign of 2014, he privileged economic growth over Hindutva, though assorted BJP leaders kept drumming sectarian points, especially in post-Muzzafarnagar Uttar Pradesh. After becoming Prime Minister, the impression has been conveyed that even as Sangh affiliates and BJP members return to Hindutva messaging, 7 Race Course Road was disapproving, that there was concern that the development agenda may be compromised. It is a different matter that he never publicly voiced the disapproval. This is why the Bihar campaign marks a potential turning point. On the trail, the Prime Minister himself sought to reassure voters that he would not allow "a particular community" to cut into reservation quotas for the backward classes. The reference was obvious. Mr. Shah's Raxaul warning does not come in a vacuum. It feeds into, and nourishes, the official intolerance of dissent. It comes amidst the takeover of cultural and educational institutions by Hindutva ideologues and fellow-travellers. It strengthens the anxiety that the men and women who currently rule India do not hold all citizens equal. These statements are not campaign-trail indiscretions uttered in the heat of electoral competition that can be simply referred to the Election Commission for a suitable reprimand. They reflect, and encapsulate, a deeper current of majoritarianism that must be confronted as such in all its dimensions.

 

·        in·nu·en·do

An allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one.

 

·        trail

A mark or a series of signs or objects left behind by the passage of someone or something.

 

·        des·per·a·tion

A state of despair, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior

 

·        stiff

Not easily bent or changed in shape; rigid

 

·        nu·ance

A subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.

 

·        cue

A thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance.

 

·        sub·tle

(especially of a change or distinction) so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe.

 

·        as·sort

(of genes or characters) become distributed among cells or progeny.

 

·        rabble-rouser

>a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons.

 

·        en·cap·su·late

Enclose (something) in or as if in a capsule.

 

tHE hINDU: October 31, 2015 00:38 IST

Reaching out to Africa



That 41 heads of state and government from 54 countries in Africa were present at the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, itself demonstrates the importance both sides attach to mutual ties. The summit, which concluded on Thursday, was the largest gathering of foreign dignitaries in New Delhi since the 1983 Non-Aligned Summit. The message was not lost on anyone: India wants to energise its relations with the continent with which it had strong political ties in the first three decades after Independence. But India lost some momentum in building a stronger partnership with African countries since the 1990s as the country recalibrated its foreign and economic policies. The idea of the India-Africa summit was first mooted to arrest this slide and reboot the relationship. While the previous two gatherings — the 2008 New Delhi and 2011 Addis Ababa summits — were significant, this week's meet takes relations to a higher level with a demonstrated resolve and a clearly laid-down road map. India has offered a new line of credit worth $10 billion to strengthen economic cooperation and called for a unified stance for the reform of the UN Security Council.



Africa is an important trade partner for India. Indian energy companies have assets in African countries, and New Delhi exports consumer and capital goods and medicines to the continent. India-Africa trade was worth almost $70 billion in 2014-15, and Indian companies invested some $30-35 billion in the continent over the past decade. While trade has improved in these ten years, it is still much less than Africa's trade with China, which was $200 billion in 2014-15. Besides, China has invested more than $180 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa alone in areas ranging from energy to infrastructure during the period 2005-2015. India may not have the resources to beat the level of Chinese investments, but it can certainly do a lot more with proper policy approaches, faster project execution and improved bilateral relations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of the $10 billion concessional credit is a right step in this direction. Second, there's a convergence of interest for reforming the Security Council. India's claim is that as the second most populated country and the largest democracy in the world, it deserves a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council. The Prime Minister has also noted that Africa, with more than a quarter of the members of the UN, is not represented in the powerful UN body. Against this background, it is imperative for both sides to speak in "one voice" for Security Council reforms. Third, stronger ties with Africa fit into India's traditional foreign policy milieu. The goodwill India enjoys in the continent is a result of the principled anti-colonial positions the country took in the post-Independence era. India should cash in on that goodwill to build a stronger economic and political partnership with Africa in the new century.

 

·        re·cal·i·brate

Calibrate (something) again or differently.

 

·        mi·lieu

A person's social environment.

 

 

business standard

Dropping the ball

Even as the problem of dropped calls refuses to go away, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai's) decision to penalise the telecom companies is not the right solution. Trai has said that from January 1, companies will have to pay Rs 1 for every dropped call, subject to a daily ceiling of Rs 3. Unfortunately, the regulator is barking up the wrong tree. The order could result in several disputes. To begin with, what stops a rogue subscriber from claiming that a disconnected call was a dropped call? Or from moving into a lift, where the call breaks, and demanding compensation? This could open the floodgates for disputes between telecom companies and their subscribers. The telecom companies will have to deploy sizeable managerial bandwidth to handle these issues. The ceiling of Rs 3 a day on the penalty may look small but an unscrupulous subscriber can make up to Rs 93 every month by abusing the system. This is two-thirds of the industry's average revenue per user of about Rs 130 a month. The telecom companies have said that the annual compensation due to dropped calls might range from Rs 10,000 crore (in case 10 per cent of their subscribers claim compensation) to Rs 54,000 crore (if 50 per cent claim compensation).



That apart, there are other issues that need to be sorted out before the penalty can come into effect. For one, the licence agreement requires 98 per cent call throughput; in other words, there is space for two per cent call drops. The new penalty comes into force from the first dropped call and is therefore in conflict with the agreement. The telecom companies are required to provide 90 per cent coverage at the level of the district headquarters and 30 per cent at the level of the block headquarters; will the penalty be valid if the telecom companies are meeting this guideline? There could be disputes of other kinds as well. If the dropped call emanates and ends within one network, there will be no problem in identifying the culprit and levying the penalty. But consider a situation where the call emanates in one network and terminates in another - is it right to penalise the network of origin in case of every dropped call? It is possible that the call may have dropped because of a snag in the other network? Situations like this will lead to a minefield of disputes and litigation.



The problem can be addressed if the telecom companies improve the efficiency of their spectrum, which requires investments in equipment, technology and towers. In this, the telecom companies are constrained by India's low tariffs. So, unless tariffs improve significantly, the problem of call drops will persist. The penalty is not the way out. Instead, the regulator must ask itself: what is preventing the action of competition in the sector? Why are some companies not competing on quality, offering customers fewer dropped calls at higher tariffs? Competition in the sector is in fact constrained by past regulatory action. Once those hurdles are removed, the problem will begin to resolve itself speedily.

 

 

·        rogue

A dishonest or unprincipled man.

 

·        em·a·nate

(of something abstract but perceptible) issue or spread out from (a source).

 

·        snag

An unexpected or hidden obstacle or drawback.

 

Indian Express

A sky more open



The government has unveiled a draft aviation policy that features a regional connectivity scheme (RCS) aimed at improving access to remote areas, fiscal and other concessions aimed at helping airlines and operators to lower their operational costs, a 2 per cent levy to ensure an all inclusive airfare not exceeding Rs 2,500 per passenger for one hour of flying on some regional routes and plans to revive at least 300-odd airports in various parts of the country that are not in use by upgrading their infrastructure to equip them as no-frills airports at an investment of Rs 50 crore each. It also talks of allowing higher foreign direct investment, of up to 50 per cent, and a review of the rules on allowing Indian carriers to fly abroad. Some of these proposals, such as those designed to encourage the building of airport infrastructure and concessions or incentives, both fiscal and regulatory, are sensible, considering the investment in the sector over the last decade, which has seen a rise in passenger traffic in India. This would also mean building airport infrastructure beyond Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad to keep pace with growth in a market projected to emerge as one of the top five over the next few years, in line with the broader growth of the Indian economy. This is where roping in states as stakeholders could help. Kerala's experience in building its airport in Kochi is a case in point.

The industry may have a point in being sceptical about the RCS which the government hopes to kick-off by April 1, 2016, by subsidising air travel to underserved and unserved destinations. This is because of the track record of airlines, many of which have folded up after having positioned themselves as regional operators, keen on serving India's growing tier-two cities and towns. It may not be easy to justify such a cross subsidy unless it is to link areas such as the Northeast with a larger policy goal in mind. As in the case of many other industries, in a price-sensitive market such as India, the big players would prefer to operate on key trunk routes in a business that is fragmented and cash-guzzling.

A higher FDI of 50 per cent, linked to open skies, should help boost operations and profitability, besides ensuring competition. But it falls way short of the 100 per cent foreign investment that an expert committee had recommended a few years ago. It may be of some comfort that globally, airlines will collectively end up with a net profit of $25 billion — half of it coming from North American carriers, according to estimates of the International Airport Transport Association. To ensure sustained growth, India's policymakers at the Centre and in the states will have to focus more on lowering operational costs while building infrastructure.

The government has unveiled a draft aviation policy that features a regional connectivity scheme (RCS) aimed at improving access to remote areas, fiscal and other concessions aimed at helping airlines and operators to lower their operational costs, a 2 per cent levy to ensure an all inclusive airfare not exceeding Rs 2,500 per passenger for one hour of flying on some regional routes and plans to revive at least 300-odd airports in various parts of the country that are not in use by upgrading their infrastructure to equip them as no-frills airports at an investment of Rs 50 crore each. It also talks of allowing higher foreign direct investment, of up to 50 per cent, and a review of the rules on allowing Indian carriers to fly abroad. Some of these proposals, such as those designed to encourage the building of airport infrastructure and concessions or incentives, both fiscal and regulatory, are sensible, considering the investment in the sector over the last decade, which has seen a rise in passenger traffic in India. This would also mean building airport infrastructure beyond Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad to keep pace with growth in a market projected to emerge as one of the top five over the next few years, in line with the broader growth of the Indian economy. This is where roping in states as stakeholders could help. Kerala's experience in building its airport in Kochi is a case in point.

The industry may have a point in being sceptical about the RCS which the government hopes to kick-off by April 1, 2016, by subsidising air travel to underserved and unserved destinations. This is because of the track record of airlines, many of which have folded up after having positioned themselves as regional operators, keen on serving India's growing tier-two cities and towns. It may not be easy to justify such a cross subsidy unless it is to link areas such as the Northeast with a larger policy goal in mind. As in the case of many other industries, in a price-sensitive market such as India, the big players would prefer to operate on key trunk routes in a business that is fragmented and cash-guzzling.

A higher FDI of 50 per cent, linked to open skies, should help boost operations and profitability, besides ensuring competition. But it falls way short of the 100 per cent foreign investment that an expert committee had recommended a few years ago. It may be of some comfort that globally, airlines will collectively end up with a net profit of $25 billion — half of it coming from North American carriers, according to estimates of the International Airport Transport Association. To ensure sustained growth, India's policymakers at the Centre and in the states will have to focus more on lowering operational costs while building infrastructure.





·        un·veil

Remove a veil or covering from, especially uncover (a new monument or work of art) as part of a public ceremon

 

 

Oct 31 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

just in jest! - Shudh Desi Bromance Brews In Patna





Nitish-Lalu have gone from Sherlock-Moriarty to Jai-Veeru, hoping to do a Modi on Modi

The biggest surprise of the Bihar election so far is how yesterday's bitter foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad seem to have turned into today's romantic lead. They used to be as Sherlock and Moriarty, bitterly scarred by battling each other.There were doubts that their new alliance would self-destruct during the election campaign itself. But looking at them now you would think they are chaddi buddis.

People say, dosti ho to Jai-Veeru jaisi ho. The thing is Nitish and Lalu have been neighbours since last year, living two plots apart on Patna's Circular Road. Maybe one day one of them wandered into the other's bungalow to share a sofa and Sholay. Or maybe it was just Rahul Gandhi being Thakur and having the epiphany that loha hi lohe ko kaatta hai ­ Only iron can cut iron. This has been a cutting edge innovation, in more senses than one. Bihar's brewing Jai-Veeru bromance now hopes to do a Modi on Modi.



Every opposition charge is rebutted hard, fast and in concert ­ in bhadralok style by Nitish and with bucolic punch by Lalu. Take jungli matters. Nitish pointed to lack of mangal raj in BJP ruled states while Lalu told cheering crowds, "Tum jungli, hum jungli, phir iss jungle mein Modi ka kya kaam?" You are in the jungle, I am in the jungle, why do we need Modi here? Be afraid and be gone.



Jab tak samose mein hoga alu tab tak Bihar mein rahega Lalu, he always claimed. Once that thought would have given Nitish nightmares. Now it must sound like a lullaby. Because now Lalua has declared that no one can touch Nitish, he is not alone any longer, his elder brother is here. Jai-Veeru also always had each other's back, whether dodging bullets or riding horses or just dan cing. Lalu-Nitish look like they are having fun too. Playing all by himself, NaMo must be feeling jealous.



But his warning that jungle raj will return with Lalu raj has takers too. They point to alarming signs like how the RJD chief cast his vote in the Veterinary College voting booth of Patna. Or to the monkey mayhem at the booth where the CM voted. Even extra paramilitary forces couldn't prevent people, including journalists, from being bitten by determined monkeys. Some read all this to mean the dawning of the day of the beast.



These doomsayers say what's actually happened is that JaiVeeru have gone over to the dark side ­ they've hooked up with Sambha to defeat Thakur! Notice that when NaMo is promoted to the good guy spot, Rahul is demoted not just to being the bad guy but puny bad guy ­ not big rowdy Gabbar but only his sidekick Sambha. But plot details are hazy yet as the people of Bihar continue to script it ­ expect full theatrical release on November 8 when votes are finally counted.



 

·        re·but

Claim or prove that (evidence or an accusation) is false.

 

·        lull·a·by

A quiet, gentle song sung to send a child to sleep.

 

·        dodge

Avoid (someone or something) by a sudden quick movement.

 

·        doom·say·er

A person who predicts disaster, especially in politics or economics.

 

·        ha·zy

Covered by a haze.

 

Oct 31 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Welcome Sebi Move On Mutual Funds





Sebi must crack down to save corporate debt market

Equity market regulator Sebi is mulling tighter curbs on the exposure of mutual funds to corporate securities.The watchdog should implement these restrictions soon. If implemented, funds will be restricted to holding 25% of securities issued by a particular sector, down from 30% now. Any scheme that invests in a business group with multiple companies might be restrained from investing 20% of its total corpus into group companies. Funds could be limited to buying 10% of securities from a single issuer, down from 15% now. Apart from such caps, Sebi and the RBI should encourage an active market in credit default swaps as well.

The proximate reason for this crackdown is a crisis in two debt funds run by JP Morgan, which saw investors head for the exit after bonds of Amtek Auto, which these funds held, were downgraded by rating agencies. Amtek's failure to honour its debt has sent ripples through the corporate bond market, making investors jittery and asset management companies, which hold debt funds, trying to stop exits by putting curbs on redemption. Sebi is, understandably , annoyed by this: funds cannot curb ex its, caused primarily by the lack of due diligence or investing acumen on the part of well-paid asset managers. Ex its in all open-ended funds must re main mandatory . Going by current trends in corporate debt, Sebi needs to crack down harder. Many Indian conglomerates in infrastructure, mining, metals and mineral resources ramped up their businesses during 2004 to 2008, borrowing heavily to do so. A global boom in all asset classes, led by commodities, fuelled this bubble. Now that the bubble has burst, Credit Suisse reckons that of 10 large conglomerates involved in these businesses are struggling to repay debt. This is unsurprising, as 80% of these groups borrowed more than seven times their cash flow (or EBIDTA). Meanwhile, projects are delayed, escalating costs by as much as 70%. The corporate debt market suddenly looks like a house of cards, assembled by bankers and borrowers in a casino. Sebi must act fast. Otherwise it might be too late.

 

·        mull

Think about (a fact, proposal, or request) deeply and at length.

 

·        jit·ter·y

Nervous or unable to relax.

 

·        reck·on

Establish by counting or calculation; calculate.

 

The newyorK times

Tainted Justice in Venezuela



There was never much doubt that the prosecution of Leopoldo López, the Venezuelan opposition leader, was a sham orchestrated by the government of embattled President Nicolás Maduro. That became irrefutably clear last week after Franklin Nieves, one of the lead prosecutors who convicted him, abandoned his post, traveled to the United States and expressed remorse for his role in a travesty of justice.



Mr. Nieves said in a video posted on YouTube that he decided to flee Venezuela because he could no longer defend "the false evidence" that was used to convict the opposition leader. Mr. López, who was sentenced last month to nearly 14 years in prison for supposedly stoking violent protests in 2014, and is being held in solitary confinement, has filed an appeal. Mr. Nieves has said that he was pressured by government threats to rely on bogus evidence. He urged fellow prosecutors and judges to follow his lead and "tell the whole truth" about the trial.



His decision to turn on the Maduro government is another powerful sign that it could be crumbling from within under the weight of a catastrophically managed economic crisis and the president's bumbling leadership style. Earlier this year, a former bodyguard for Diosdado Cabello, the head of the country's Congress, fled to the United States to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials investigating the role of senior Venezuelan officials in drug trafficking.



Mr. Nieves's defection should add fresh energy to the international effort to free Mr. López from his 7-by-10-foot cell. He is not alone; several other politicians have been unjustly barred from participating in Venezuela's parliamentary election in December. Their voices and vision are essential to start mending Venezuela's economy and rebuilding its democratic institutions

 

·        taint

Contaminate or pollute (something)

 

·        pros·e·cu·tion

The institution and conducting of legal proceedings against someone in respect of a criminal charge.

 

·        or·ches·trate

Arrange or score (music) for orchestral performance.

 

·        em·bat·tled

(of a place or people) involved in or prepared for war, especially because surrounded by enemy forces.

 

·        a·ban·don

Give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking).

 

·        trav·es·ty

A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.

 

·        stoke

Add coal or other solid fuel to (a fire, furnace, or boiler)

 

·        crum·ble

Break or fall apart into small fragments, especially over a period of time as part of a process of deterioration.

 

·        bar

Fasten (something, especially a door or window) with a bar or bars.

 

·        mend·ing

Things to be repaired by sewing or darning.

 

THe Moscow Times

Russia's Neighbors Are Silent on Syria (Op-Ed)



A month after Russia began its intervention in Syria, other post-Soviet leaders are conspicuous mainly by their silence on the military operation there.



The Commonwealth of Independent States summit that took place in Kazakhstan earlier this month went by without a single expression of public support for President Vladimir Putin. The only person who spoke out in favor, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, did so only during a post-summit interview to a Russian television channel.



The silence reflects the fact that the ruling elites of the other post-Soviet states are less than thrilled by Russia's recent foreign policy actions. They see Russia's behavior in Ukraine as a threat to their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The most that the Kremlin can count on from them is a recognition of the reality that Crimea is now de facto part of Russian territory.



Kazakhstan in particular has been alarmed by the noisy and often aggressive stream of publications and pronouncements in Russia predicting that Northern Kazakhstan, with its millions of Russian speakers, might follow the Donbass as a place where the "Russian world" needs to be protected.



Ironically, it was Kazakhstan's turn to host this year's CIS summit, in the resort town of Burabay north of the capital Astana. For the first time it was a completely closed meeting. Previously, only presidents' meetings at the summit were off limits to the press. This time, outsiders were excluded even from sessions with full delegations, even though these were protocol occasions, featuring speeches made by all of the presidents, without follow-up discussions.



Putin's speech was made available only on the Kremlin's press service site. The same was true of the speeches of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, Ilham Aliev and Islam Karimov. So it was only later that we learned that Karimov had made a cutting speech, criticizing the agenda of the summit for being "divorced from reality."



Most of Putin's speech was devoted to the fight against terrorism and efforts to "coordinate a joint foreign policy." He stated that Russia was acting fully within international law on the basis of an official request from Syrian President Bashar Assad and that the operation would last for a limited time-span.



Judging by the media coverage of the summit, none of the other presidents responded to this call for solidarity over Syria. Indeed, no one else appeared to mention Syria at all.



Perhaps the only exception was Almazbek Atambayev, the president of Kyrgyzstan, who later gave a lengthy interview to the Russian television channel RTR in which he agreed with the assertion that Russian troops in Syria are fighting "also for Kyrgyzstan" and said that "the guys who are fighting for the Islamic State today and are being trained in Syria will later be sent to build the Khorasan Caliphate in Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan."



This was probably as good as it got for Putin. The Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko let slip that the private discussion among the presidents was "heated."



It's possible that the "heated" exchanges also concerned Afghanistan, where a series of different extremist groups have become more active in the north of the country in the past few weeks.



Recently, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev caused a small diplomatic scandal by mentioning violent incidents on the Turkmen-Afghan border. The Turkmen government relayed its "resolute protest" to Astana, urging the "brotherly" state to "be guided by more objective information."



Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pointedly chose not to come to Burabay, sending only his deputy prime minister there instead. Moreover, he dispatched his Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov for talks in Washington at the same time.



What lies behind this diplomatic gambit? Evidently, Russia's missile launch against Syria from the Caspian Sea — not far from Turkmenistan — unnerved the Turkmen leadership.



Turkmenistan and Russia have had an uneasy relationship since the August 2008 war in Georgia. At the time, Ashgabat was involved in a diplomatic tussle with Moscow over the status of thousands of Turkmens who held dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship. The Turkmen government took Moscow's military intervention in South Ossetia, ostensibly to protect Russian citizens, as a warning. In response it hastily staged military exercises on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea to demonstrate its resolve to defend itself.



Sources in Turkmenistan say that their foreign minister raised the issue of security guarantees in Washington.



The two other Caspian Sea littoral states, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, are bound to be concerned by Russia's military activity there — even though Nazarbayev and Aliev were almost certainly informed about the launch of the 26 cruise missiles. It is likely that Aliev was told about the impending strike during an Oct. 7 telephone call in which, according to the Azerbaijani presidential press service, the Azerbaijani leader congratulated Putin on his birthday.



Russia's missile launch helps to explain why, since the early 2000s, it has been stalling on an initiative by the four other Caspian Sea states to demilitarize the region. The demilitarization of the Caspian Basin remains one pre-condition for an agreement on the legal status and delimitation of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan have reason to believe that Teheran and Moscow are deliberately dragging their feet on these issues in order to maintain the control they had over the Caspian in Soviet days.



They received an unwelcome reminder of that era on October 18, when a flotilla of three Iranian warships sailed across the Caspian on a "friendly visit" to the Russian port of Astrakhan. The captain of the flotilla made a point of noting that the voyage had been planned well in advance.

·        con·spic·u·ous

Standing out so as to be clearly visible.

 

·        De facto is a Latin phrase that means in fact (literally by or from fact) in the sense of "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established", as opposed to de jure.

·        caliphate

The era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Mohammed until the 13th century; some Moslems still maintain that the Moslem world must always have a calif as head of the community; "their goal was to reestablish the Caliphate"

 

·        im·pend

Be about to happen.

 

The Dawn editorial

Local ambition



THE first phase of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab today is the much-awaited and essential next step in the process of the democratisation of Pakistan.



This election has taken a long time coming, with the provincial governments in Karachi and Lahore appearing to do everything within their power to delay this basic grass-roots exercise.



For all the vows about representative governments made from the podiums of the political parties which are running Sindh and Punjab, their reluctance is an admission of just how far the democracy caravan has to travel before its safe future can be predicted with any degree of confidence.



The change must come and this is precisely why the LG election in the two biggest provinces of the country is something to be celebrated. The flurry of activity in the areas which are going to vote today also includes some unwanted elements.



There has been violence and there are, as per the norm, allegations that the provincial governments are trying to drastically influence the polls.



Eyebrows have been raised because of the participation in the election of people who are not seen as having immaculate reputations.



On view are clannish tendencies and money is a huge factor; many of the less resourceful souls have been complaining about how their campaign has been overwhelmed by the sheer weight and glare of money.



There are issues where minorities and other marginalised groups such as women feel that they are denied due space to promote their aspirations and candidacy and prevented from playing an active role in running and improving the system of governance at the basic level.



Much before these concerns, there have been reports indicating that some work was needed to make the voting lists more comprehensive and error-free. There are challenges, complaints, accusations, systematic weaknesses, social fetishes and more.



Yet there is also an air of expectancy about these polls. Primarily, this is due to the fact that the exercise brings out popular ambition and that, with all its drawbacks, local politics engages the common man in a manner more direct than is possible during the elections for the national and provincial assemblies.



This is a brand the people should be able to relate to naturally and one they should be pushing for in order to have a more assertive role than they do in the higher tiers of governance.



The local grass-roots ambition must be nurtured to boost the effort to instal real, transparent, basic-level people's rule. This is going to be a tough battle.



Those who have been so unwilling to hold the local government polls are going to try and concentrate powers in their hands at the provincial level. Let's believe this is an irreversible process.



As the popular ambition at the grass roots grows stronger, it is for the higher tiers to reconcile themselves to sharing of power and responsibility.



·        flur·ry

A small swirling mass of something, especially snow or leaves, moved by sudden gusts of wind.

 

·        clan·nish

(of a group or their activities) tending to exclude others outside the group.

 

·        rec·on·cile

Restore friendly relations between.

 

The Guardian

view on Halloween: disorganised and irreligious – and all the better for it



lectric lamps in yellow plastic illuminate both religion and secularism today. Neither looks healthy. Halloween in Britain is a completely fraudulent festival, which has no more in common with traditional observances for the dead than the druids who gather around Stonehenge at midsummer have with the rites celebrated when the stones were raised. It is pointless to talk about the Christian roots of the festival. It is what it is, and no one dresses up on the day for theological reasons, or thinks of the dead as they wait for the doorbell to ring.



Yet this lack of thought and considered purpose is what has made the festival popular. It is not something for which it is necessary to believe to take part. Dressing up and playing with fear is its own reward. The candy may also help. It would be quite wrong to use the English word "sweets" since for the purposes of the ritual the children are all American, however British we are for the rest of the year.



Halloween in this sense is popular because it is neither religious nor spiritual. It does not even have the faintly disturbing sense of obligation and forgotten tradition that lurks like a taint of incense in the corners of even the brightest shopping mall at Christmas time. It is something for everyone to celebrate as much or as little as they wish, and largely in their own way. It is the opposite of evangelical, which is why it has spread so successfully. Even those churches that solemnly denounce it as satanic (and that's another largely American invention) form part of the fun. They have put on the costume of creepy killjoys and everyone admires their performance.



Compare this exuberance with the stiff laboured efforts of organised religions, or even organised irreligion, to promote their own observances. They are all about belief or unbelief, and conscious belonging: "Have you met Jesus?" and "Have you been enlightened by Dawkins?" are equally unattractive openings to a conversation. By contrast, Halloween requires no belief, just stuff that "everybody knows" and it can be celebrated as much or as little as anyone cares.



There was a time when Christianity functioned that way in Britain, too. For centuries it was a framework that everyone knew and only the eccentric needed to consciously believe. But that's gone now, and it won't come back. With the end of that certainty, and with the loss of All Hallows' Eve as a religiously celebrated festival, we have lost something profound, too. The slow accretion of meaning and tradition brings something to the observation of Christian solemnities that nothing quite consciously arranged can match, and which commercial Halloween does not even try to. Festivals of the dead and of solemn remembrance belong to late autumn when the dark comes earlier and the bright leaves fall and are trampled into glossy pavements. Behind the plastic skulls of today's Halloween lurks something much more frightening. The lines of comic shambling zombies cannot entirely conceal Auden's view that we are "lost in a haunted wood, children afraid of the night who have never been happy or good".



But nostalgia is useless here. We can't revive the past. That's one of the things about death. If the only rituals we have are centred around plastic and imported pumpkins then we must learn to fill them with meanings of our own.



·        fraud·u·lent

Obtained, done by, or involving deception, especially criminal deception.

 

·        lurk

(of a person or animal) be or remain hidden so as to wait in ambush for someone or something.

 

·        taint

A trace of a bad or undesirable quality or substance.

 

·        in·cense

A gum, spice, or other substance that is burned for the sweet smell it produces.

 

·        e·van·gel·i·cal

Of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion.

 

·        ex·u·ber·ance

The quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness; ebullience

 

·        ac·cre·tion

The process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter

 

·        tram·ple

Tread on and crush.

 

·        pave·ment

Any paved area or surface.

 

·        pump·kin

A large rounded orange-yellow fruit with a thick rind, edible flesh, and many seeds.

 

 

 

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