22Jan/150

Expectations from President Obama’s India visit

India’s burgeoning economy and growing clout in Asia are enough reasons for the United States to further strengthen relations with the country. India, which is making a concerted effort at increasing its presence in the global arena, is looking at the United States as a reliable partner.

So, it was no surprise when the Narendra Modi government invited United States President Barack Obama as the chief guest on India’s Republic Day. This is the first time that a US President has been accorded such an honor.

Though there are speculations that many fruitful discussions will emerge from the visit and many important agreements would be signed but what is more important is the fact that today India and the United States share a much closer ties as compared to earlier times.

Major agreements expected in trade and commerce, defense, energy and climate change

Obama’s historic visit to India will have a positive effect on India-US co-operation in trade and commerce. During his visit, the President will hold discussions with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as senior officials and ministers, on a wide-range of issues pertaining to bilateral trade. Senior US officials have indicated that energy policy and climate change will be the focus of talks between the two leaders. Economy, defense, and regional and global issues are other areas in which the two leaders will hold high-level discussions.

Cooperation in defense

The United States has become a major defense partner of India but the current visit would be focused more on developing new weaponry rather than mere buying and selling of arms and equipment. India has taken particular interest in US defense technologies such as drones, carrier technology and others which would enable it to enhance its sea and air power. Apart from this, the two countries may also renew their 10-year defense framework pack during the US President’s India visit.  View Washington DC Map, capital of USA.

Civil agreements in energy and environment

In the energy sector the two leaders are looking at improving the supply of fossil fuels and inhibiting climate change. There is a strong possibility that India would urge the United States to back its efforts for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Common concern on terrorism

India is on the hit list of major terrorism groups and is witnessing frequent attacks. In such a scenario it is looking at the United States as an important partner in the sharing of intelligence. The two sides are also closely working on cyber security.

Business ties to look up

The business leaders are looking forward to the visit and are hopeful it will have a lasting impact on the Indo-US economic ties. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is facing stringent scrutiny in the United States and is optimistic the visit will bring some positive news for the industry. The Indian IT industry is quite optimistic that discussions on the Indian IT industry would be taken up and the US government would relax visa restrictions for Indian employees.

So, when Obama along with Narendra Modi takes the salute on 26 January, India and the United States would embark on a new era of mutual trust, cooperation and friendship. View List of US Presidents.

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20Jan/150

ISIS: An effective propaganda machine

The organization has built a highly sophisticated propaganda machine which has been instrumental in realizing the twin objectives of the group – to inspire and frighten. The organization publishes a glossy and slick magazine ‘Dabiq’. This propaganda magazine is a perfect tool for the organization to recruit youth to its fold and expound its jihadist philosophy.

The magazine, which is a periodical, focuses on tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war) and jama'ah (community). Its highly informative stories highlighting the victories and philosophies of the group are accompanied by glossy photos of captured soldiers, hostages and militants in action. Many articles are a call to youth from around the world to join the jihad and dwell upon the return of the golden age, which can only be achieved with the defeat of the coalition forces being led by the United States. The magazine is, in fact, a perfect breeding ground for turning innocent minds into dens of hatred and revenge.   Know Anti-ISIS Coalition Countries

The group is also known for making bloodcurdling videos which in detail show the group’s military campaigns, beheadings of hostages and kidnappings. A few weeks ago videos had surfaced of ISIS executing Syrian soldiers. The ISIS had also released photos of a captured Jordanian pilot whose plane the organization had claimed to have shot down. Many of these videos contain hatred filled speeches calling upon followers to rise up and launch attacks on western military and police establishments. The group had paid glowing tributes to Man Haron Monis, the person behind the Sydney chocolate cafe siege, in its Dabiq issue and called upon followers to take similar lone wolf attacks across Europe. The ISIS has effectively used popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to make attract youth as well as to ask for funds.

Punishing deserters with death

Notorious for killing its enemies, the ISIS has executed more than 200 militants who got disenchanted with the organization and wanted to return to their homes.. Most of the executed militants are Europeans who were initially impressed with the ideals of the organization but got disgusted when the ground realities unfolded before them. Many of the foreign recruits who made their way back to their countries told authorities that their aim was to fight for Jihad but were made to do menial tasks like cleaning and cooking.  Know ISIS Captured Areas in Syria

Funding

The ISIS has over the years built a huge corpus of funds, which has enabled it to emerge as a well-structured and highly organized terrorist group. Its huge army numbering from a few thousand to over 200,000 and a stockpile of highly advanced weaponry indicates that the organization is not short of funds. In fact, it is considered to be one of the richest jihadist groups in the world. A captured ISIS operative had revealed in mid 2014 that the assets of the group total to around US$2 billion.

The ISIS has resorted to several means to raise funds such as oil production, human trafficking and drug smuggling. It has been estimated that most of the cash has been stolen form Mosul’s central bank as well as other banks located in the region controlled by the ISIS. However, this was later refuted as locals said no bank was looted in the region.

Oil is a major source of funds for ISIS. The organization has overrun several oilfields in Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that the group is per day producing between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil. The organization sells the oil in the black market to fund its war with the US.  View Islamic State Map

Alarming reports have also come in of the ISIS employing doctors to harvest human organs in Iraq and Syria. The doctors extracted organs from dead ISIS militants and shockingly living captives. These organs are then sold through the global trade route through Turkey and Saudi Arabia and earn enough cash for the ISIS to carry on its war.

With such resources at its disposal, the fight against the ISIS is going to be a long-drawn-out battle.  WBPB12012014

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17Jan/150

Obama’s visit may bolster bilateral defense partnership

India and the US may also ink an agreement on a new defense framework during the American President’s visit. If officials are to be believed, the new defense framework will be more pushy and ambitious than its earlier version signed by the then Defense Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in June 2005. According to them, the new defense framework’s agenda will include bolstering bilateral defense partnership and increasing the scope of joint military exercises. Also, collaboration in intelligence-sharing, maritime security and drive against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will figure in the new defense framework. Above all, the two countries, under the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), may give thrust to their joint-production and joint-development plan of high-tech defense technology like the next generation Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters, long-endurance UAVs and 127 mm warship guns. With regard to military exercises, it is said, India and the US are likely to upgrade their annual Malabar series of naval exercise from currently bilateral to multilateral one, accommodating Japan and a few more countries into it.

On space, the two countries’ officials are working hard to give final touch to the NASA-ISRO programme on the launch of Synthetic Aperture Radar mission. This mission to be launched in 2021, may see inking of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Know the List of US Presidents

The US may take up intellectual property rights issue with India

Amid these issues, intellectual property rights appear to be more pressing agenda that American authorities may take up with their Indian counterparts during Obama’s visit. In this regard, the US wants India to complete negotiations on the long-pending Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The basic thought is that once formalities over the BIT are complete, more US companies would be lured into India, thereby transforming economic ties between the two countries. Initiatives like Make in India, Digital India and Smart Cities are looked as great business opportunities by the US companies. In fact, on the business front, the US appears keen to increase its trade with India to $500 billion a year from $97 billion in 2013. To this regard, a final picture would emerge during the forthcoming Modi-Obama bilateral talks.  Know More about US President Barack Obama

For the moment, hints coming in from Washington suggest that American drug companies with significant operations in India, are also pressurizing the Obama administration for raising their concerns with Delhi. Their stand is that India’s price-control framework hurts their margins. The country’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) recently added 52 drugs to its list of price-controlled essential medicines. American companies fear that NPPA bringing more drugs under price control would curtail their profit margins. Nonetheless, decks are being cleared, New Delhi’s Hyderabad House is being spruced up and arrangements for giving a warm welcome to President Obama are being fine-tuned.

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15Jan/150

ISIS: Unrelenting Barbarism

The recent capture of Mount Sinjar by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who were aided by US air-strikes, may be just one instance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as or the Islamic State group) being beaten back in its aim of establishing the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East. In reality, the terror organization is well entrenched and is growing in numbers and strength with each passing day. Area Captured by ISIS in Iraq

The year 2014 witnessed the frightening rise of the terror group, which in a short span of time came to control huge swathes of Iraq and Syria. As news began to pour in of the bone-chilling atrocities being heaped upon the captured soldiers, hostages, hapless people and women, US President Barack Obama launched air-strikes on the group in a bid to destroy it. However, these assaults have, as no now, failed to have any far-reaching impact on the jihadi group.

ISIS has built an extremely ruthless administrative system, a highly advanced propaganda machine and has a huge corpus of funds to help it keep going in its aim of establishing a world caliphate.

Recruitment

Reports have indicated that the ISIS employs over 2,00,000 soldiers. These militants are grounded in ISIS’ jihadist ideology and are provided rigorous military training which is at par with those provided by some of the best armies in the world.

Majority of the fighters come from the areas in Iraq and Syria that are currently under the control of the ISIS. However, influenced by the group’s ideology and philosophy, a large number of fighters have joined the ranks of ISIS from foreign countries. According to a United Nation’s report more than 15,000 foreign fighters from over 70 countries around the world are currently fighting on the side of ISIS. The group gets its share of fighters not only from Muslim countries situated in close proximity of Iraq and Syria such as Turkmenistan Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, etc, but a large number of fighters from far away countries such as America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Germany, and France have also been reported to be in ISIS ranks.

The ISIS has mainly focused on recruiting men but lately women too have found a way in the organization. Women are being recruited through effective media campaigns. The organization is making starry-eyed promises to women that they would get loyal jihadist husbands and an opportunity to devote their life to their God and religion. Reports have also emerged of many women traveling to Iraq to marry militants.

There have been several instances where authorities have caught women in the process of leaving their respective countries to join the ISIS. French authorities had arrested a girl aged around 16 on grounds of attempting to go to Syria. Two Australian girls, aged around 15, and British twin sisters left for Iraq to marry militants. Apart from these, there have been several other cases of a similar nature.  Islamic State Map

12Jan/150

Famous speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr

Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

More than four decades have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr, an icon of civil rights movements in the United States and around the world, fell to the bullet of a deranged and racist sniper. However, his voice championing an end to racial discrimination still rings loud and clear. King led the black community towards freedom from discrimination and inequality. Though this path was strewn with rocks, the blacks finally managed to cross every hurdle in their fight for emancipation, finally emerging triumphant.

I have a dream: Delivered on 28 August 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial
In an era when the black community faced racial discrimination and exploitation, every African-American had a dream. A dream to live with dignity, to walk on the roads freely, to see segregated buses and housing being abolished, to see a United States where color would not be a hindrance in getting good educations and jobs and a world where the derogatory word ‘Nigger’ would no longer be uttered. King made the community realize that the dream could be realized if it fought relentlessly for its rights. Considered to be a masterpiece, the speech has been lauded by every section of the community, be it black or white, while the media has heaped praises on it. King delivered the speech on 28 August 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial during his march on Washington. The speech is considered as one of the most defining moments of the American Civil Rights Movement and continues to be a source of inspiration for oppressed people around the world. Know more about Martin Luther King Jr

Beyond Vietnam: Delivered on 4 April 1967 in New York

Martin Luther King, Jr, was highly critical of the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. He severely opposed the policies that created grounds for the war. Unlike I Have a dream, Beyond Vietnam was negatively received by the public as well as the government of the United States. King delivered the speech on 4 April 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. The speech alienated many people who were King’s allies; it was also condemned by the civil rights activist who thought that the speech would hurt the cause of the nation. An Angry Lyndon Johnson, the President of the United States, canceled King’s visit to the White House, while leading newspapers such as Washington Post and New York Times carried scathing editorials against King, calling his speech a big mistake. Nevertheless the speech is another of example of King's independent thinking and great oratorial skills.

Give us the ballot: Delivered on 17 May 1957 in Washington, DC
Martin Luther King, Jr, was not only moved by the intense racial discrimination the black community had to face in all walks of life, he was also concerned about the facts that blacks were prohibited from casting their vote. In 1957, King delivered his famous ‘Give us the ballot’ speech asking to extend suffrage to the black community as well. This speech highlighted how extending voting rights to the community would positively impact the development of the country. In the speech, King said the call for the voting rights for African-Americans is not only morally right but would lead to a change for the better for all Americans. This speech and King’s relentless campaigns finally forced the government to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This speech established Martin Luther King, Jr, as the number one leader of the African-American community.

The Birth of a New Nation: Delivered on 7 April 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery
This speech was delivered just a month after Ghana gained independence from the British rule. King was of the view that oppressors do not voluntarily grant independence but it is through the constant efforts and struggle that freedom can be achieved. King, who was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence, believed that the struggle to be free should always be peaceful and should never take a violent form.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children: Delivered on 15 September 1963 in Birmingham
This speech was delivered by King in memory of four young girls who were killed by bombing. The girls died at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Of the four girls, three were aged 14, while the fourth one was aged 11. Martin Luther King, Jr, paid tributes at the funeral of the three of the girls. The private funeral of the fourth victim was held at a later date. Talking about the girls, King said they had not died in vain. A man of peace, he called upon the grieving families of the girls to do away with the thought of vengeance.

Great March on Detroit

Thousands of people stood mesmerized as King delivered his speech during the Great March on Detroit. His inspiring speech highlighted the fact that the African-American community’s thinking about themselves has started to change. He stressed that now their mindset has become more positive and they have developed a new-found sense of pride and dignity. He also expressed a dream that he would like to see an America where there would be equality between the white and the black people.
The American Dream: Delivered on 4 July 1965 in Atlanta

This electrifying speech was delivered on the Independence Day of United States. It was a stark reminder to the nation that though it had been nearly 200 years since America achieved its cherished independence, the African-American community was still fighting for equality. Delivered just two years after his great I Have a Dream speech, in the American Dream, King shared his disappointment with the American people that his dream had turned into a nightmare. King said his dream lies shattered as he walks the streets of Chicago and sees young African-American men and women frustrated and desperate because they could not find gainful employment. His point was: even people working in menial jobs should earn enough to lead a life of dignity.

'Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community': King's fifth book published in 1967

Published in 1967, this was King's last and final book. In the book King analyzed the state of race relations in America. King was organizing a Poor People's Campaign to force the government to address the issue of poverty. Opposed to violence King criticizes the black nationalists who are opposed to non-violence. He predicted that oppressed people around the world would adopt non-violent tactics to combat America's economic colonialism.

I've Been To The Mountaintop: Delivered in Memphis on 3 April
This speech was delivered just a day before King was shot dead. The speech was regarding the Memphis sanitation strike. In the speech, King called upon the workers to live up to the nation’s cherished ideals. He called for unity, economic actions and boycotts but at the same time implored them to always take the path of non-violence. King had a premonition that he would die soon, and at the end of the speech he hinted at the possibility of his untimely death.

On 4 April 1968, King's voice was forever silenced by the bullet of a sniper. Addressing the crowd from the balcony of the room where he was staying, King collapsed on the ground after the bullet hit his cheek smashing his jaw. King was pronounced dead at the St. Joseph's Hospital. Though his voice was silenced but his ideals went on to influence the nation as a whole . Today, as we hear disturbing reports of black people still being racially discriminated against in parts of US, the need for following the teachings and ideals of Martin Luther King becomes all the more imperative.
Biography of Marin Luther King Jr

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10Jan/150

Martin Luther King, Jr – One of the greatest reformers

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr, had famously said “I have a dream”. But many among the African-American community felt the dream being shattered when Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer accused of shooting dead black teenager Michael Brown, was let off by a Ferguson grand jury.

It is a matter of debate whether the police officer had acted deliberately or in self defense but the case added fuel to fire. The black community already simmering with anger took to the streets and unleashed their fury on whatever came in the way. The violence witnessed huge damages to property, both private as well as government. The past few months saw other white police officers being let off for similar crimes giving the African-American community the impression that black lives matter little to the government.  Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr

As America continues to grapple with the issue of racism, one is reminded of the valiant struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr, to combat racial inequality. Born in 1929, Martin’s initial name was Michael King. But his father changed his name to Martin Luther in honor of the famous German reformist of the same name, knowing little that one day his son would follow in the footsteps of the German reformer and become one of the greatest civil rights activists in the world.

King, who was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Violent movement, used Gandhi’s strategy of using Non-Violent disobedience to make the US government realize the fact that African-Americans are an indispensable part of the American society and are entitled to civil rights at par with their white brothers.

Martin Luther began to make an impact when he led a highly successful non-violent campaign in 1955 against the racial policy of segregation in public transport of Montgomery. The campaign known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott started on 1 December 1955 when Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested for not giving her seat to a white male as per the law of the land. The campaign finally led the US Supreme Court to declare segregated buses in Montgomery and Alabama as unconstitutional. After this African-Americans were no longer required to vacate their seats for the white people. Famous speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr

King, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, led peaceful mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The protests made headlines worldwide due to the violent police response on a non-violent movement. King was also instrumental in organizing the March on Washington’ in 1963 where he gave his speech “I Have a Dream”. The famous speech has no parallels and it established King as one of the world’s greatest orators.

Kings speeches have been so powerful and his movements so inspiring that in 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non-violence. He also led campaigns in Chicago against segregate housing. King was highly critical of the US role in the Vietnam War and in a speech titled “Beyond Dreams”, which he delivered in 1967, King vehemently criticized the government of United States for declaring war on Vietnam. His strong criticism alienated many white allies such as President Johnson. King also undertook campaigns against poverty.

King’s illustrious life abruptly came to an end at the age of 39 when he was assassinated on 4 April 1968 in Memphis. King was standing on the balcony of Lorraine Motel where he was staying when he was struck by an assassin’s bullet. However, King’s death did not go in vain. His campaigns and non-violent movements have enabled the African-American community to live with dignity. Today, racism has to a large extent been eradicated from the nation and blacks can be seen occupying top slots in the government, private sector, military and other walks of life.

Just a few days after he was assassinated, the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Today a number of streets, schools and public buildings are named after him. The third Monday in January is observed as the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement, King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. WBPB09012014

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9Jan/150

Paris attacks timeline

Wednesday 7 January

Gunmen wearing masks storm the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar”, spray bullets on the people present in the magazine. Eleven people are killed in the attack, including the editor and journalists.  Know Where is Paris

The gunmen make their escape in a black car and in the process shoot dead a Muslim police officer. The French police launch a manhunt.

The suspects are identified as Cherif Kouachi, 32 and Said Kouachi, 34, who are brothers. The third suspect is 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd. Later Hamyd surrenders at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, which is a town located in Champagne.

French police surround the city of Reims, also in Champagne, in search of the two suspects.

Thursday 8 January

Police releases photos of the Kouachi brothers, the two suspects involved in the ghastly attack on the French magazine.

Meanwhile, French swat teams launch a manhunt for the suspects in Picardie region north of Paris. They are backed by helicopters. The police detain nine people for questioning. These are suspected to be members of the brothers' entourage.

Grenades and gunfire are launched on a mosque, a city in Le Mans, southwest of Paris. No causalities are reported in the incident.

A woman police officer is shot dead by an assailant on the southern edge of Paris. A street sweeper is also injured in the incident. The assailant is identified as Amedy Coulibaly.

The two brothers are seen at a gas station in the northern Aisne region. Police surround the gas station.

At 8 pm, lights go out at the Eiffel Tower in honor of the victims who lost their lives in the deadly attack.

Following the attack in Paris, Britain increases security at the ports and border regions.

Friday 9 January

According to French officials, the two brothers are on the run after stealing a Peugeot northeast of Paris.

A major operation is launched to arrest the brothers in Dammartin-en-Goele, which is about 25 miles northeast of Paris.

The two suspects are holed up with a hostage inside a printing firm. Schools are shut and people are told to remain indoors as security forces move into the small industrial town.

Meanwhile, several people are taken hostage by a gunman at a Kosher grocery at the eastern edge of Paris.

The gunman is identified as Coulibaly. Police link him to the Kouachi brothers. The police releases his photo and that of his accomplice Hayat Boumddiene, a 26-year-old female.

Coulibaly warns the police of killing the hostages in case the brothers are cornered.

The police launch an assault on the printing plant. Just before 5 pm, the two brothers are killed as they rush out firing. The hostage is freed.

A few minutes later the police launch an assault on the Paris kosher grocery. Coulibaly is killed. Around 15 hostages are freed while four are killed.

A member of al-Qaida's branch in Yemen says the group is behind the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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7Jan/150

Sri Lanka elections: People to vote for peace, prosperity and stability

Democracy has largely remained elusive in Sri Lanka. The island nation, which gained independence in 1948, has witnessed a turbulent past. Civil wars, instability and corruption have played an important role in ravaging the economy and democratic structure of Sri Lanka. 8 January 2015 would be a red letter day in the history of Sri Lanka. After being a victim of conflict and uncertainty, the nation would be once again electing a new government in the hope that it witnesses an era of peace, stability, good governance and prosperity.

Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka 2015

Though Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the people of the country had practiced universal suffrage since 1933. Upon gaining independence, Sri Lanka adopted a parliamentary form of government. Don Senanayake, the founder of the United National Party, became the first prime minister of the country. Under his rule the economy of Sri Lanka flourished. However, his tenure was cut short in 1952 when he suffered a stroke. He was succeeded by his son Dudley. However, he had to resign following a huge general uprising by the leftists parties against the UNP.

John Kotelawala, who took over following the exit of Dudley, expanded Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. However, his reign was marked by economic woes and rising ethnic tensions. In the 1956 elections, the UNP had to face a crushing defeat at the hands of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna This included the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which was led by Solomon Bandaranaike and Philip Gunawardena’s Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party.

Upon his assuming power, Bandaranaike started favoring the Sinhalese population. He made Sinhala the official language of the country. He was criticized for not being able to control the Tamil riots which eventually led to his assassination. His widow, Sirimavo, succeeded her husband and is has the honor of being elected the world’s first female prime minister. During her rule, she implemented a radical economic program of nationalization and land reform. She also undertook other measures such as a pro-Sinhalese educational and employment policy. She also established an independent foreign policy as part of the non-aligned movement.

Disenchanted with Sirimavo’s government, the people voted the government of J. R. Jayawardene into power in the elections held in 1977. His government introduced the Republican Constitution of 1978. Under the new legal framework the country adopted a semi-presidential form of government and as a result the balance of power was tilted in favor of the president of the country. Earlier it was the prime minister who wielded power.

His rule witnessed growing ethnic tensions ultimately resulting in increased attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE). Founded in 1976, the group made its presence felt by launching a deadly attack on a Sri Lankan army patrol in 1983. For the next 26 years the group carried out a full-scale war against the government demanding an independent state for the Tamils. The war led to the death of approximately 100,000 people and many were displaced.

Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the reins of the government in 2005 by defeating the government of Ranil Wickremasignhe by a narrow margin. Rajapaksa is widely credited with decisively defeating the LTTE in 2009, ending a bloody trail of death and destruction. Though he restored normalcy in the strife-stricken country, he has been severely criticized for curbing freedom of the media. He is also facing allegations of having indulged in war crimes.

On 8 January, people would make a historic decision by choosing a leader who would promise to take Sri Lanka on the path of progress; one who would usher in peace, prosperity and rid the country of corruption. WBPB07012015

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6Jan/150

Illinois – a traveler’s paradise

People on the lookout for an exciting and exotic place to spend their vacation would find Illinois an incredibly fantastic destination. There is something for everyone in Illinois. The state is home to numerous exotic destinations that would appeal to different types of people be it the adventurous, those looking for romantic destinations, the ones out with families or those searching for places that would offer them solitude and help them in rejuvenating their energy. View Illinois Map

Starved Rock State Park

This is one of the most visited tourist sites in Illinois. It is estimated that every year approximately two million tourist visit the park. Spread over 2,630 acres of land, the park comprises majestic canyons and waterfalls and of course amazing places to relax. Some of the activities that are offered in the park include boating, camping and fishing. The park is known for its scenic beauty. The park, which has 18 deep canyons, offers almost 13 miles of hiking trails. The park has 133 campsites, of which 100 can be reserved. Here you will come across amazing rock formations such as the St. Peter sandstone. A number of exciting events are conducted at the park. One of the most popular events is the Eagle Watch Weekend, which is held in the month of January. Thousands of eagles migrate to the park during this time of the year giving animal lovers a rare opportunity to view some splendid species. Another exciting event is the Fall Colors Weekend held in the month of October. The Cross-Country Ski Weekend is held in February, while the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage is held in May.

Chicago

A visit to Illinois will be incomplete if you do not spend a few days at Chicago, one of the most modern and sophisticated cities of Illinois. As you enter the city, you will be greeted by towering skyscrapers, offering a fantastic view of the city. The third largest city in the United States provides a number of amazing attractions. Gain knowledge of the sea life at the Shedd Aquarium. Here you will find more than 1,500 species of sea life, which includes 32,500 fish as well as amphibians, birds and insects. The Magnificent Mile will definitely appeal to shopaholics. It is home to some of the best apparel stores ranging from the local stores to the high-end boutiques. Other places worth visiting include Field Museum of Natural History where you will come across exhibits ranging from a collection if animals such as African elephants to the Tyrannosaurus skeleton. Take a trip to the beautiful Buckingham Fountain or hop on a boat and cruise down the Chicago River, at every step the city buzzes with excitement. View Chicago Map

Ulysses S Grant Home in Galena

If you are looking for some information on the American Civil War hero and the 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant then a trip to Galena is a must. Situated here is the former home of Ulysses Grant. The home, which was constructed around 1860, was presented to Grant by the people of Galena in 1865 in appreciation for his role in the Civil War. Since 1904, the home has been maintained as a memorial to Grant. Today the historic site is frequented by people who are looking for information on the Civil War or want to know about the former President of the United States. Here you will come across the personal belongings of Grant.

Springfield

Springfield, the capital of Illinois, has a number of sites dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, perhaps one of the most celebrated presidents of the United States. One of the best known of these is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Here you will find important information about the life and work of Abraham Lincoln, as well as the history of the state. Another site worth visiting is the Illinois State Capitol. It is not only a stately building but is also one of the tallest state capitols in the United States. Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, Lincoln Home, Old State Capitol and Lincoln’s Tomb are just a few other attractions which are quite popular among tourists. The city is also well known among tourists for its food items. Some of these include the corn dog on a stick and the horseshoe sandwich. View Springfield Map.

Shawnee National Forest

Discover the wild side of Illinois at the Shawnee National Forest. The forest is spread over 280,000 acres of land and thousands of tourists visit the forest to view the marvelous attractions it has to offer. Some of the destinations worth visiting include the Little Grand Canyon, which is around 200 feet deep. The artificial Cedar Lake is also a must see. It has been created by damning Cedar Creek. The forest is also home to around seven wilderness areas. The most prominent of these is the Garden of the Gods Wilderness. The forest comprises amazing vantage points, majestic rock formations, picturesque scenery and other such attraction that would take your breath away. Apart from this, many wilderness areas comprise springs and waterfalls and large sandstone formations.

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5Jan/150

The US tries to halt the ISIS march

The response of the world community to the IS threat was swift and lethal. A one-time enemy of Iraq, Iran was the first to pledge its full support to root out ISIS from the country. During the war against ISIS, Iran gave military equipment to Iraq and also provided field assistance.

With the Iraqi troops failing to halt the march of ISIS, the US-led coalition launched air strikes on key IS installations in Iraq and Syria. Know Anti-ISIS Coalition Countries.

Initially offering humanitarian aid to the people residing in ISIS-controlled regions, the operations were later expanded to include air strikes on Syria. By November 2014, air strikes were intensified and have turned the heat upon the ISIS. As per the US military sources, three senior ISIS leaders have been killed since mid-November, including Haji Mutazz, a deputy to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; Abd al-Basit, the top military commander and Radwin Talib, a mid-level commander in control of Mosul. In an air strike in late December, the newly appointed ISIS governor of Mosul, Hassan Saeed Al-Jabouri was killed.

In a recent development, Kurdish fighters were able to make deep inroads into the ISIS-occupied Sinjar town. Aided by US air strikes, the Kurdish fighters pushed out the IS militants from Mount Sinjar freeing thousands of Yazidis who were trapped for weeks..

A growing threat to India

The threat of ISIS is not only limited to its immediate neighbors but the rise of the organization is a cause of worry for India too. The country has neither committed any ground troops for the anti-ISIS offensive, nor has it taken part in the US-led air strikes. However, the threat of the ISIS looms large over the country.

India forms an important part of the ISIS' ambitious plan of forming "Worldwide Caliphate". The organization released a map, which included north-western India, including Gujarat as a part of the Islamic State of Khorasan.

But it is not the thought of ISIS extending its control over parts of India that is worrying the Indian establishment. The real concern is combating the terrorists operating within the country. In recent months, disturbing reports have come in of radicalized Muslim youths leaving for Iraq to fight under the black flag.

In December 2014, the Indian police arrested a 24-year-old engineer identified as Mehdi Masroor Biswas who joined ISIS. Mehdi is not the first case where a misguided Indian youth has been indoctrinated into the ISIS ideology. During the past few months a number of reports have emerged highlighting the Indian Muslim youths' new-found love for the terror group. In September, it came to the knowledge of the intelligence agencies that four youths - Arif Majeed, Aman Tandel, Shahin Tanki and Fahad Sheikh, from Kalyan in Maharashtra had joined ISIS. Majeed returned to India in November and was arrested. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are thousands of youths who swear allegiance to the ISIS and can pose a big risk for India.

Reports have also emerged that the ISIS is spreading its influence in the country through propaganda videos in Hindi, Urdu and Tamil. The police had arrested two men in Tamil Nadu in the month of August for selling ISIS t-shirts. The emergence of ISIS flags in Kashmir during street protests was an indication that the group is expanding its presence in India.

ISIS remains undefeated in 2014

The ISIS, whose rise has been rapid, remained largely undefeated in 2014. The US president Barack Obama had vowed to ultimately degrade and destroy the group. It remains to be seen whether the United States would be able to accomplish this mission by the end of 2015. WBPB30122014

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