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Saudi replaces veteran intel chief Prince Bandar  

April 15, 2014



RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has replaced its veteran intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan “at his own request”, an official television station in the kingdom announced Tuesday.


In a royal decree, the powerful official was replaced “at his own request” by his deputy, Yousef al-Idrissi, said Al-Ekhbariya, a government-run satellite channel.


Bandar was abroad for several months for health reasons, with diplomats saying he had been sidelined in Saudi efforts to support rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad´s regime.

Six skin habits to unlearn now

April 14, 2014


LOS ANGELES: Some of the skin care techniques that people think are helping their skin are actually doing more harm than good, says skin care expert Renée Rouleau and adds that over time these habits may harm the skin.

The celebrity esthetician lists six bad skin habits one needs to unlearn immediately,

Tugging at the delicate skin surrounding the eye area: The area surrounding eye has the thinnest skin on the face, and it’s the first to show the signs of ageing. Pulling on the skin while putting in contacts, applying eyeliner, or rubbing aggressively to remove stubborn eye make-up can unnecessarily create wear and tear on the collagen and elasticity fibers within the skin. This can cause visible lines and wrinkles prematurely, so be sure to handle this delicate area with care. Also, always apply eye cream with the ring finger and use a gentle patting motion to avoid rubbing and tugging.

Misting, not wiping, your skin when using toner: While misting or spraying toner on the skin may be convenient, it is really important to use a wiping motion while applying toner. The reason is toners are designed to remove cleanser residue and most importantly, salts, chlorines, and chemicals from tap water that may dehydrate the skin. When you mist the toner you are simply diluting these chemicals, not removing them. Always use an alcohol-free toner, wipe it over the skin with a cotton cloth or pad.

Rubbing skin too aggressively with a washcloth: Use a washcloth or facial sponge during evening cleansing to fully remove make-up and residue from the day. However, rubbing the skin too aggressively with a washcloth may encourage irritation, stimulate melanin cells in those prone to brown spots, and create extra wear and tear on skin’s elasticity. Use a baby washcloth with softer fibers or a facial sponge.

Not washing your face in the morning: When sleeping, skin is in repair mode and it secretes sebum, which can prevent your morning products from working optimally. Additionally, you’ll be layering your morning products on top of your night-time products like masks or retinols, so they won’t penetrate the skin as easily. Cleansing in the shower will give the skin a clean slate to allow your daytime serum and sunscreen to better protect and absorb into the skin. Be sure to always wash with a mild, sulfate-free cleansing gel in the morning.

Using the same products year-round: Without a doubt, skin has different needs in different seasons. In the spring, think spring cleaning with deep pore cleansing and exfoliating productsto revive the skin from the winter dryness. In the summer, the focus should be on protecting skin from the sun with sunscreen and antioxidants, which have powerful protective qualities. Products should be lighter-weight in the spring and summer since there is more humidity in the air, and a summer skin care routine should have less exfoliation since more time is spent outdoors. During the fall, increase exfoliation to repair the skin from the summer sun damage. With the dry air in winter, the focus should be on increasing moisturisation and using hydrating products.

Picking at your skin: Whether it is out of nerves or simply trying to make a blemish go away faster, in the end picking at a blemish will make it worse. A blemish only lasts five to seven days, but the red, dark scar from messing with it can make it linger for months. Leave the blemish alone and conceal the bump with makeup until it heals naturally.

Taliban leader goes missing in UAE

April 14, 2014


Mutasim confirmed to be missing in the UAE. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan on Monday officially confirmed that a senior Taliban leader, Mullah Agha Jan Mutasim, who had started dialogue with Kabul-backed negotiators in Dubai, has been missing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

After a mysterious silence for nearly two weeks, the Afghan Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed that Mutasim is missing.

“The Afghan government confirms that Agha Jan Mutasim has disappeared in the UAE and we are talking to UAE senior officials to determine his fate,” the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Shakaib Mustaghni said in Kabul.

“The talks, unfortunately, have not yet produced any results and we do not have any moredetails,” Mustaghni told his weekly press briefing, according to the recorded version of the briefing received here.

When contacted, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune that he had seen media reports and has no other information.

Mutasim’s family and friends had confirmed to The Express Tribune last week that they had lost contact with him in Dubai for ten days. They were concerned that the UAE authorities had detained and shifted him to an unknown location in Abu Dhabi.

Mutasim, a former Taliban cabinet minister and close aide to the Taliban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had launched his alternate peace movement. And contrary to the Taliban policy, held talks with Karzai’s negotiators.

After their first meeting, they had agreed to hold more talks to push the peace process.

Sources close to Agha Jan had told The Express Tribune that he had been working on a plan to convene a big conference of religious scholars.

Mutasim’s move was seen a major embarrassment for the Taliban as he was thought to be the first senior leader to have openly started talks with Karzai’s government.

President Hamid Karzai had personally welcomed the Dubai peace initiative. He also urged other Taliban leaders to join the move after receiving Kabul-backed negotiators.

However, the Taliban reacted angrily to Agha Jan’s “unauthorized negotiations” with Karzai’s High Peace Council and had publicly disowned him.

The dissident Taliban leader’s detention is seen a serious setback for Karzai’s efforts to lure some Taliban leaders to join the intra-Afghan dialogue in the last day of his Nato-backed regime.

Karzai is scheduled to step down as the long serving elected leader of Afghanistan if a new leader is elected in the first round of the April 5 presidential elections.

Tolerance for Terrorists?

April 13, 2014


Tolerance is a fine thing. However, there are limits that any sane society must prescribe, and the presence of autonomous, unaccountable entities that in all likelihood present a danger to the lives of citizens and the security of the state cannot be tolerated. Recently reports have emerged that in the event that peace talks fail, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) allies at religious seminaries in and around the capital, Islamabad, are ready to support the terrorists and help attacks on the city. The TTP strategic aim of inculcating fear in people is well served by these reports. However, these fears are not baseless since the capital’s security has already been compromised by two bomb attacks in the last 30 days that claimed upwards of 40 lives and left scores more people injured.


The reports point to two seminaries run by clerics known for advocating violence and sectarianism: Azizur Rahman Hazari reportedly runs a madrassah that ‘brainwashes’ and prepares candidates for suicide bombing and terrorism, while Fazlur Rahman Khalil reportedly provides weapons training at his seminary.


Khalil is on the US terrorist watch-list for signing Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa (decree) declaring war against the US. He also founded the now banned Harkatul Mujahideen in 1985 and police believe his current group, Ansarul Ummah, is a front for the banned outfit, despite his denials. No judges are willing to prosecute him, police say, for fear of their lives, and both men are believed to have provided logistical support for the TTP attack on army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. The reports were corroborated by security officials. The Wafaqul Madaras, an umbrella organisation for Deobandi seminaries, has resisted calls for madrassah reform or registration, claiming it is interference in their affairs, and successive governments have backed down in the face of blackmail by religious leaders, who threaten to bring their supporters out on the streets. However, with Pakistanis being blown to pieces daily, it seems there is little more that they can do that the government should be afraid of, which raises the question of why nothing is being done about seminaries that pose a direct threat to the capital and its citizens. 


The questions are pertinent: is there an investigation of these seminaries underway? Are the links confirmed? Even if unconfirmed, security agencies can hardly ignore warnings of this nature given the fact that religious seminaries are proven parts of the militant training programme. The connection between religious seminaries and militant organisations is common knowledge in today’s Pakistan. For the past 30 years, seminaries provided the ideological and practical training for militants, terrorists and suicide bombers in Pakistan, after first being used for that purpose during the Afghan war in the 1980s. The link is undeniable and established; jihadi organisations that operate with their own agendas and in opposition to the interests of the state and people of Pakistan use seminaries as factories for their fanatical foot soldiers. The techniques involved include brainwashing from childhood, coupled with physical abuse to ingrain the brainwashing deeply, followed by practical training in the use of explosives and weapons at other madrassas or terrorist training camps in the tribal areas. The government and security agencies are aware of this link; indeed they created it as part of the programme to use religious proxies to fight the USSR in Afghanistan, then India in Kashmir, and to impose order in Afghanistan in the form of the Taliban.


The question that remains is are the authorities blind to the threat religious seminaries pose, or are they wiling to allow Pakistani citizens to die in order to further delusional visions of dominating Afghanistan or ‘conquering’ Kashmir? Let us put the argument in context: conquest is no longer a legitimate means of taking territory. In the 1960s, before global norms negated the practice, our attempt to integrate Kashmir by force failed. Continuing support for jihadi proxies is another strategic miscalculation that has cost thousands of Pakistanis their lives. The military establishment and the government must drop their visions of grandeur and immediately shut down religious seminaries that pose a threat to citizens, without fear of what the terrorists may do since they are doing their worst already.  

Florida’s not-so-coy pastor is just the latest in a plague of fallen preachers

April 13, 2014



Revelations of extra-marital affairs and a porn habit leave the 20,000 worshippers of one mega-church leaderless



Ushers walk the aisles with boxes of tissues just in case, but the message to the nearly 4,000 worshippers who have crammed into Fort Lauderdale’s Calvary Chapel is to keep upbeat, at all costs. “I just want to tell you,” an assistant pastor declares as the service reaches a climax, “this is not the end.”

Here in the main sanctuary, surely large enough to host a minor boat show, the congregation is anxious to reciprocate, following the hymns on the giant projection screens above the stage, their arms lifted to the rafters. “This is my prayer in the desert, This is my prayer in the fire, This is my prayer in the battle,” they sing. “Everyone needs compassion. Everyone needs forgiveness.”

It was a gruelling week at Calvary Chapel, the largest mega-church in Florida and the fastest growing in the land, with full membership at 20,000 and counting. But what happens now is the question. An assistant pastor was on stage on Wednesday night because Bob Coy, the founder and lead pastor, the man everyone wants to see for his saucy charisma and his “I’m-just-like-you” folksiness, has been suspended and exiled for, well, sauciness.

This is familiar territory for the industry that is the US’s mega-churches – officially any place of worship with over 2,000 members. There are an estimated 1,200 of them, a few, like this one, with big broadcast interests. Tele-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was defrocked by his Assemblies of God church in a sex scandal in 1988. More recent was the 2006 downfall of Ted Haggard in Colorado, after a relationship with a male escort.

Fall from grace: Ted Haggard

Fall from grace: Ted Haggard

Those are the famous cases. But Florida alone has seen three other mega-church leaders taken down by scandal in past 12 months, one of whom, Isaac Hunter, later killed himself. And they are just in and around Orlando. By some accounts, America is in the midst of a plague of preacher-turned-sinner debacles.

“I have dealt with near a dozen churches in the past couple years who lost a pastor due to a moral issue,” Ron Edmondson, a Kentucky pastor and religious affairs consultant, wrote reflecting on the Coy case. “One of the leaders in our denomination used the word ‘epidemic’ to describe the number of pastors leaving the ministry because of moral failures.”

The Calvary Chapel’s statement last weekend revealing Pastor Bob’s fall was bland. Married with two teenage children, he had succumbed, it said, to “moral failings”. That, say the reports, had involved extra-marital affairs and a compulsive pornography habit. Coy himself has not been heard from and the church is in media shutdown. Indeed, this reporter was escorted off its premises.

There is a special poignancy to Coy’s fall from grace. He has previous, which was actually central to his appeal. He founded the church in a shop back in 1985 after coming here from Las Vegas, where he admitted using cocaine and managing a casino with strippers. It was a brother, Jim, who took him by the scruff and told him there was another, Godly, path.

“The next morning I wake up and everything’s changed in my life and in my heart,” he recounted in one interview. “I drove back to the casino, and I walked in. I looked around, and I saw naked girls. It was like, ‘Oh, I work here? Oh, boy.’ God began to convice me in such a gentle and lovely way that I don’t belong here. It’s time to make a change in my life.”

That story of redemption attracted people like John Fantom, 53, a telemarketer who has attended the church for seven years. “I have been about a bit in my life,” he said, glancing at his feet. “He gave me hope because he has been a sinner and because I am a sinner. We are all hypocrites.”

Dwayne Clark, 23, was also at the service, agreed: “Satan loves this stuff. He and his demonic goons will do anything to attack the body of Christ and crush his teachings. But Pastor Bob will rebound from this.”

That may not be so easy, suggests Professor David Kling, chair of the University of Miami’s religious affairs department, who does not see Coy returning. Nor will it be easy for the Chapel to survive, at least with its nine campuses, 32 pastors (make that 31), $40m (£24m) in annual donations and 600 employees.

“Calvary Chapel was Bob Coy and Bob Coy was Calvary Chapel,” said Professor Kling, citing US religion’s “entrepreneurial” tradition dating back to the 19th century. “It’s one thing for a Steve Jobs to leave Apple, but here you have an organisation which is voluntary. No one is requiring anyone to show up. Once Bob Coy is gone, who knows what will happen.”

For now though, Coy’s followers have to come to terms with what has happened, says Rob Hoskins, leader of One Hope, a global ministry for children based two miles from Calvary. “It’s been shocking for people in the church. It is very devastating and painful for us. This is similar to grieving.”

He also doubts a Coy comeback. But to ask now is premature, he says. “First he has to reconcile to his Lord, he has to reconcile to his wife and he has to reconcile to his children.”

Social media helping destabilize world, strategist says at War College

April 13, 2014
World instability
Security forces from Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni secure a landing zone while Polish medics arrive to provide medical care in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Poles and militaries from other Eastern European countries participated in Iraq and Afghanistan with the hope that someday when they need military assistance, the U.S. would provide it, said Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 11, 2014) — Twitter, Facebook and other types of social media are contributing to global instability, said Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor — a team of intelligence experts.

The use of social media, he explained, has been shown to unite and rally demonstrators at a moment’s notice, enabling them to focus their energies on toppling regimes in just a matter of days. An example would be the use of it during the so-called Arab Spring, which began in December 2010.

Kaplan was keynote speaker at the 25th Annual Strategy Conference in Carlisle, Pa., sponsored by the Army War College, in partnership with the Joint Staff/J7. His remarks and those of others are not official U.S. Army doctrine. Rather they are meant to inform the Army of possible challenges it faces in the coming years and decades, officials said.


Failed, collapsed or weakened states pose a regional security problem and even a national security threat for the U.S. and its Army, Kaplan said, defining a weak or failed state as one where travel outside the capital can be dangerous — places like Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.

Social media is not the only factor that will increasingly destabilize the world in the next 20 years, he said.

Ethnic and religious sectarian problems will continue to fester and create failed states in places like Africa and the Middle East, areas he compared to the post-Roman Empire Christendom in 4th, 5th and 6th-century Europe, where doctrinal battles and violence occurred between various sects.

Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic area examples where that is occurring and Kaplan believes it will further spread as passions increase.

Another factor in the rise of failed states, he said, is the end of colonial rule and the strongmen who followed.

Like it or not, he said, the European powers sliced up the world in spheres of influence and domination, where protest and chaos was effectively quashed. 

When that domination ended in the 1960s, strongmen — who were seen by their people as leaders against imperialism — emerged. Since these dictators now felt like they had moral authority, they governed how they pleased, he said, adding that it wasn’t always in the best interest of their own people, but at least they maintained tight control.

But with the era of colonial rule and strongmen ending, people are getting restless and want change, he said; however the change each tribe, ethnic or sectarian group seeks may be very different and this results in friction and clashes.


One of the most important factors creating global instability, he said, are weak institutions that Americans take for granted; things like the departments of motor vehicles, water and electric companies, police and firefighters. These are not top-level government agencies, but are services that make society function.

In vast swaths of Africa and Asia, these institutions are weak and in some cases nonexistent, he said. Weak institutions in turn give rise to feeble state identities. Feeble state identities in turn breed discontent and anarchy. 

That discontent then often manifests itself in militant, radicalized groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which can create regional security problems. The kinds of people that join these types of groups, he said, are more willing to die for a cause than they would be for the state.

Non-state actors, he said, are also empowered by new technologies that have the potential for doing a great deal of damage; for instance offensive cyber capabilities and plastic explosives that can fit inside a pocket. A very small group of people with ideologies and these types of weapons can cause a great deal of instability.

There’s not much the U.S. will be able to do in the coming years to address failed states, he said, because the money to do it might not be there. The U.S., however, can take selective actions it deems important using its special operations capabilities.

Meanwhile, he said, the Army and other services remaining strong can serve as a deterrent to those who would do America harm. In other words, even if the Army isn’t engaged in direct combat, its strength will dissuade potential aggressors.


As if failed states aren’t bad enough, Kaplan said there’s plenty to be concerned about with respect to non-failed states like China and Russia.

For centuries, China was effectively separated from India by the Himalayas. Then, new technologies made the world a much smaller place.

Now, the Chinese are building warships and routinely sailing in the Indian Ocean and they’re building airfields in Tibet for fighter aircraft. India too is building warships and is using its satellites to spy on the Chinese. 

This can cause a great deal of mutual suspicions and mistrust, Kaplan said. 

The Chinese are mimicking what the U.S. did in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. made the Caribbean its own lake and controlled the Panama Canal — the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific.

In China’s case, officials look at the East and South China seas — and increasingly the Indian Ocean — as part of their strategic sphere of influence. In other words, it’s their Caribbean.

For now, it isn’t in their interest to attack the U.S. because their military is not as strong as the U.S. and they can take their time building it up and gaining experience in using new military technologies, he said. Also, Kaplan doesn’t believe the Chinese are in meetings planning a world empire.

The problem for the U.S. with regard to China, he said, is that China will face internal instability over the coming decades because of an economic slowdown and tumultuous ethnic and social transformation.

When that occurs, the best way for China’s leaders to hold sway over their people will be to dial up nationalism, he said. That nationalism would take the form of provocations to its neighbors.


With respect to Russia, Kaplan said it too is acting in the same way the U.S. has in the past, dominating countries close to it like Ukraine, which he said the Russian people consider part of their heritage.

Throughout history, the Russians have felt the need for a buffer zone between their country and Europe, especially since it was periodically invaded by the French, Germans and others. America, he said, has been insulated from that threat by two oceans.

Russia’s need for buffers has not gone unnoticed by its eastern European neighbors, who are becoming increasingly uneasy, as Russia has proved willing to use force in Crimea and as it builds up its military forces elsewhere, he said.

Poles, Romanians and others are not reassured that they’ll get military assistance if needed from Western Europe, whose armies have been downsized much more than U.S. Army, he said. As well, Europe has become dependent on Russia for its energy needs, so this gives the Russians a great deal of leverage.

Because of Eastern Europe’s mistrust of getting help from the rest of Europe, Kaplan said they’ve turned increasingly to the U.S. for help, participating in U.S.-led exercises and contributing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with the hope that in the future, the U.S. will remember their loyalties.


So what can America do in the coming decades?

Besides maintaining a strong military, Kaplan said the U.S. can partner with other powers, India and Japan, for instance.

India views the U.S. presence in the Indian Ocean, for example, as a counter to China’s buildup. And in turn, he said, the U.S. values India’s military, although there isn’t a formal treaty like NATO in place.

The other thing the U.S. can do, he said, is to organize its interagency structure in a more vertical manner, like the British did in the 19th century and earlier with its East India Company. Economic, political and military agencies worked hand-in-hand in foreign policy, although today that policy would be viewed as imperialistic.

The U.S. military can use the vertical model to its benefit in national security by working more closely with the Department of State and agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development.

An important area of national security where Kaplan sees the U.S. going in the right direction is the continued development of its home-grown energy requirements, which makes America less reliant on energy imports from places not always friendly to the U.S.

Besides his work for Stratfor, Kaplan, is a national correspondent for the magazine “The Atlantic,” author of “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and End of a Stable Pacific,” and in 2011 and 2012, he was chosen by “Foreign Policy” magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

The 25th Annual Strategy Conference in Carlisle ran April 8-10.

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Flight MH370: Infographic Shows Just How Insanely Deep In The Ocean The Missing Jet Might Be (PICTURE)

April 11, 2014

Flight MH370: Infographic Shows Just How Insanely Deep In The Ocean The Missing Jet Might Be (PICTURE)


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