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Dec 25 2015

Six In The Morning Friday December 25

Russia, Taliban share intelligence in fight against ISIS

Updated 0340 GMT (1140 HKT) December 25, 2015

With the number of ISIS fighters growing in regional neighbor Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin is turning to an old enemy — the Taliban — to share intelligence.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the contact between Moscow and the Afghan Taliban only involves intelligence-sharing and information exchange regarding the fight against ISIS.

Why would Putin put himself in a risky spot by working with the Taliban? It’s a case of aligning himself with the enemy of his enemy.

A U.S. commander last month told Congress that ISIS has gained strength in Afghanistan in recent months, with as many as 3,000 fighters there.

Christians risking persecution share Christmas photos

Team Observers

 

As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, some of them are planning their festivities in secret. In some countries, they are forced to be discreet, or else risk the wrath of the authorities. To show solidarity with persecuted Christians, a Facebook group has invited them to send in photos of their Christmas decorations.

The initiative, called “My Treedom”, was launched in December, and has also spread to Twitter under the hashtag #MyTreedom. It was launched by Lisa Daftari, an Iranian-American journalist. On the Facebook page, she invites Christians from all over the world, and in particular from countries where they are persecuted, to send in photos that show how they celebrate Christmas despite the challenges.

So far, about 30 photos have been posted, including this photo from Brunei, a tiny state where about two-thirds of its 430,000 citizens are Muslim. The country’s sultan recently forbade the country’s Christians from celebrating Christmas. Last year, he had already announced that Brunei would shift towards sharia law, eventually adopting punishments like death by stoning and severed limbs. But, apparently, that hasn’t stopped some from putting up Christmas trees and donning Santa hats.

What if Star Wars was made in Pakistan?

NOMAN ANSARI

In Star Wars some Jedi go to the dark side, killing those who don’t follow a hardline version of faith. Sound familiar?

 

Since its release in 1977, the Star Wars franchise has grown into a cultural phenomenon, and the hype surrounding its latest installment Star Wars: The Force Awakens (out in Pakistan today) makes clear that its popularity endures.

You may or may not be a fan of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Marvel, or DC properties, but you most likely are a fan of Star Wars.

Words from the films like Jedi, Sith, lightsabers, wookies, droids, and phrases such as ‘I have a bad feeling about this’, ‘may The Force be with you’, ‘it’s a trap’, ‘Luke, I am your Father’, and ‘I find your lack of faith disturbing’, have become a cornerstone of popular culture.

As a longtime fan of the series who has watched the trilogies countless times, read the extended universe books, owns dozens of miniature Star Wars warfare and board games and has played just about every Star Wars video game possible, I have found it interesting how certain aspects of the fiction resonate with Pakistani culture.

Okinawa countersues Japanese government over US base move

Tokyo (AFP) – The defiant southern region of Okinawa countersued Japan’s government Friday over local resistance to a new US military base, the latest chapter in deepening mistrust between central authorities and the strategic island.

The lawsuit by Okinawa prefecture comes after the central government sued it last month amid a long-running drama between Tokyo, keen to satisfy security ally the United States, and Okinawa, where frustration over a seven-decade American military presence is rife.

Pacifist sentiments run high on the island that accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area but hosts about 75 percent of US military facilities in the country.

Earlier this week, Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga renewed his pledge to prevent the central government from building a US Marine base in a remote part of the island to replace the existing Futenma facility in a heavily populated area.

 

200 Islamic extremist fighters split from rebels, pledge allegiance to IS

About 200 Islamic extremist fighters have split from Somalia’s Al Shabab rebels, who are allied to Al Qaeda, and have instead pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

About 200 Islamic extremist fighters have split from Somalia’s Al Shabab rebels, who are allied to Al Qaeda, and have instead pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, Kenya’s police chief said Thursday.

The splinter group is operating around the Somali border in Kenya’s north, and has carried out at least two attacks in the last two weeks, killing one soldier and two civilians in Mandera County, Joseph Boinett told the Associated Press.

The split in Al Shabab poses an extra challenge for Kenya’s security forces, Mr. Boinnet said. Among those who have joined the pro-IS faction of Al Shabab is Mohamed Kuno, alias Gamadhere, who is wanted for the April 2 attack by Al Shabab gunmen on Kenya’s Garissa University in the country’s east, in which 148 people were killed, Boinnet said.

Letter from Beijing: In 2015, smog struck fear into China’s leaders

There’s an outdoor shopping center near my Beijing apartment called “The Place.” Every night, the giant overhead screen there is lit up with images of the Chinese Dream – karst mountains, ancient temples, families playing under blue skies.

A few weeks ago, during one of the city’s bouts with air pollution, I walked through The Place, wearing my smog mask and feeling sorry for a janitor who lacked one. He was sweeping the soot away from a newly installed Christmas tree.

And it’s true. Beijing can be wondrous – a cosmopolitan city with stunning historic sites, interesting food and fascinating people from all over the world. But when the smog rolls in, it strangles the life out of the city. Beijing’s bright colors – the red and gold lanterns, the streets lined with yellow ginko trees in fall – become airbrushed in gray. On those kind of days, you just want to stay in your apartment and listen to the hum of the air purification machine.