Son of murdered Pakistani governor may face charges over ‘offensive’ video

3 hours ago
  • From the section Asia
Pakistani supporters of convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri hold an effigy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest against Qadri's execution, Karachi, 4 March 2016Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The execution of a bodyguard who killed a Pakistani governor for supporting law reform led to protests

The son of a Pakistani governor killed for criticising the country’s blasphemy laws may face charges under the same laws after posting a video labelled “offensive” by religious groups.

Shaan Taseer used social media to call on people to pray for those held under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.

Some of those charged in the country are facing the death penalty.

His father, Salman Taseer, was murdered in 2011 after speaking in favour of law reform.

“In my Christmas message, I asked all my countryman to make a special prayer for everyone who has suffered religious persecution in Pakistan,” Shaan Taseer told the BBC.

He said it was time to raise the “very basic question” of whether Pakistani citizens should be able to talk about the country’s “unjust” laws on blasphemy.

“This issue has been shut down at the barrel of a gun after my father’s death,” he said, adding: “The law of the land states very clearly that every citizen has the right to talk about not just the blasphemy law but every law.”

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One of those charged under the law and mentioned in Shaan Taseer’s message is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman facing the death penalty for on allegations of verbally insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

His appeal for prayers for those accused of blasphemy led to calls by an Islamic group for the state to bring charges against him under the same law. He said that he had also since received death threats.

Police in the city of Lahore said they accept the contents of the message could cause offence and are now investigating whether the video is authentic.

Members of the religious group which raised concerns over Shaan Taseer’s social media post have arranged to meet government officials to discuss the case.

The killing of Salman Taseer

This file photo taken on 28 March 2009 shows governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province Salman Taseer speaking to the media after a national assembly session in Islamabad.Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Shaan Taseer’s father, Salman, was shot and killed by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri on 4 January 2011 after speaking out in favour of reform of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.

He was the governor of Punjab province at the time but angered Islamic hardliners by showing support for Asia Bibi, who remains on death row pending an appeal.

Qadri was later sentenced to death for the crime. Thousands of Pakistanis turned out for his funeral and he was hailed as a hero by Islamists.

Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy but some of those accused have been murdered or lynched by crowds.

Most of those prosecuted under the blasphemy laws are Muslims. Some have alleged that charges against them are fabricated to settle personal scores.

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Gwadar’s Earthquake Island Disappears


Men walk on an island that appeared 2 kilometres off the coastline of Gwadar on September 25, 2013, after an earthquake the day before. —AFP/File
Men walk on an island that appeared 2 kilometres off the coastline of Gwadar on September 25, 2013, after an earthquake the day before. —AFP/File

GWADAR: A small island said to have been created in the Arabian Sea by a huge earthquake that hit parts of Balochistan in 2013 has disappeared after remaining visible for three years.

Off the coastline near the port of Gwadar, locals were astonished to see a new piece of land surface from the waves after a strong earthquake struck southern parts of Balochistan, including Awaran, Turban and parts of the Makran coast, on Sept 24, 2013.

The island — 60 to 70 feet high, up to 300 feet wide and up to 120 feet long — was named “Zalzala island’’ by the locals. A team of experts and geologists visited the island and found methane gas rising.

“The island disappeared due to high tide in the sea,” Abdul Rahim Baloch, a marine biologist, told Dawn, adding that the island vanished from the surface of the sea but would remain underwater.

The area contains methane gas that forces land upwards during intense earthquakes in the Arabian Sea, he added.

“The island could reappear if a strong earthquake jolts the region again,” said Mr Baloch.

Published in Dawn December 31st, 2016

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Buildings that blend with nature: why Singapore has them in abundance and Hong Kong doesn’t yet

Singapore is one of my favorite cities to visit.  When I was last there, the greening had yet to begin, except in their wonderful biological garden area. I am not surprised that the city is being transformed.

Fr. Orthohippo


Architects in Lion City have embraced the idea that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature and incorporated it in building design; Hong Kong’s green walls and podium gardens are a step towards this

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 7:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 7:15am

You begin to notice them as soon as you arrive in Singapore: buildings overwhelmed by greenery, steel and glass seemingly reclaimed by the tropical landscape. Then, as you make your way through the city, you notice how many spaces are open to the air, despite the constant heat and humidity that makes every afternoon feel like the dog days of a Hong Kong summer. Singapore isn’t a city in a garden; it’s a city that is a garden.

Richard Hassell and Wong Mun Summ deserve much of the credit. Their Singapore-based architectural practice, WOHA, has dedicated itself to biophilic design, a concept outlined in their new book, Garden City Mega City, which explores the firm’s work and its implications. “It’s something that’s part of us as human beings,” says Hassell. “We love nature.”

We’re hardwired as a species to affiliate with nature
Keith Griffiths

That’s the idea at the heart of biophilia, first proposed by the American biologist E.O. Wilson in 1984. He suggested that all humans have an innate desire to connect with nature, even if they have never lived in natural surroundings. Biophilic design translates that desire into the built environment.

“We’re hardwired as a species to affiliate with nature, because in millions of years of development we’re attuned to the sunrise and sunset, the weather, the climate, the seasons, rocks, landscape,” says Keith Griffiths, director of Hong Kong-based architecture firm Aedas. “That’s all part of our hard-wiring. Even though we might be born and brought up in a dense urban environment, we’re still naturally attuned to nature. We need to be very aware of that when we’re designing buildings.”

The challenge of biophilic design is to combine that age-old desire for nature with the demands of a modern world that is becoming more urban and more densely populated. The vision of firms like WOHA is not to replicate the sprawling suburban utopia of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, conceived in the 1930s; it is to create high-rise, high-density cities that give a new and more positive meaning to the term “concrete jungle”.

Oasia Hotel Downtown has multiple

“Being in a biophilic city delivers tremendous benefits in terms of quality of life,” says Timothy Beatley, author of the 2010 book Biophilic Cities. Studies have shown that proximity to nature reduces stress, which in turn promotes mental health and even physical healing; patients in hospitals with views of greenery have been shown to recover more quickly than their counterparts in settings with denuded scenery.

WOHA is by no means the only architectural practice to have embraced biophilia. In Milan, architect Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale infuses two luxury apartment towers with more than 900 trees, which help cool the buildings in the summer while giving residents an immediate connection to birdlife, greenery and the change of seasons.

“It’s a very striking image,” says Aric Chen, curator of architecture and design at Hong Kong’s M+ Museum. “You’re definitely seeing much more innovative, creative and aesthetically powerful uses of greenery in architecture.”

To surround yourself with plants but live the most egregiously wasteful life while doing it probably has some contradictions
Aric Chen

But using greenery in architecture is one thing; being “green” in the metaphorical sense of the word is quite another. “We don’t want to confuse the presence of green with an actually sustainable way of building and living,” says Chen. “To surround yourself with plants but live the most egregiously wasteful life while doing it probably has some contradictions.”

That’s one of the goals behind Garden City Mega City, which lays out a set of firm principles that guide WOHA’s projects. The first is that cities should be layered, something that can be seen in Oasia Downtown, a 30-storey apartment, hotel and office tower that was completed in Singapore in 2016. “The big idea behind it is that as cities become more and more dense, the ground level is under enormous pressure to provide many things to many people,” says Hassell. Oasia deals with that by providing multiple “ground” levels, with several open-air sky lobbies containing fountains, pools and trees.

The entire Oasia Hotel Downtown is coated in greenery. Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall

The entire tower is coated in greenery, which is another one of WOHA’s goals. Hassell says he has always been fascinated by the intersection of buildings and nature – even his early student projects were filled with greenery. The Parkroyal on Pickering, a hotel in Singapore completed in 2013, earned international acclaim for its thickly forested terraces, which contain more green space than Hong Lim Park across the street.

The Lion City makes it easy to coat buildings in vegetation. “Singapore has very low winds and year-round rainfall, constant humidity and a very constant sun path across the sky,” says Hassell. As Boeri’s Bosco Verticale proves, however, similar things can be done in any climate. “Basically the main condition to planting in buildings is that it’s the equivalent of a very exposed location on the ground. In cold climates it might be alpine plants, or seaside plants, which have high exposure to quite drying and strong winds off the sea. You’ll find in almost every climate there is a set of plants already adapted to such conditions.”

Here in Hong Kong, green walls and landscaped terraces have become a popular way to integrate nature into developments. Aedas’ Mongkok Residence, a serviced apartment building under construction on Sai Yee Street, will feature a verdant façade and podium gardens when it opens later this year.

Another goal of biophilic design is permeability. “The body enjoys breeze, it enjoys air movement – we expect it because it’s part of life,” says Griffiths. Though air conditioning creates dry, temperature-controlled spaces, it isn’t necessarily comfortable, and it certainly isn’t sustainable; air conditioning alone sucks up 30 per cent of the energy produced by Hong Kong’s coal-fired power plants.

The Sanya integrated commercial and transportation hub, in Sanya, China. Photo: courtesy of Aedas

Aedas has made a point of enhancing natural ventilation in a number of projects, including the Oasis Mall in Sanya, Hainan Island, and a Singapore retail and cultural complex called The Star.

“The curves of the storefronts promote breezes, so there is a constant three-knot wind across the shopping mall,” says Griffiths. “You don’t have air conditioning but people love going there because it’s so cool.”

We should make buildings into a complete ecosystem
Ken Yeang

Biophilic design has yet another goal: biodiversity. “We should make buildings into a complete ecosystem,” says Malaysian Ken Yeang, one of the first architects in the world to employ biophilic principles in his work. “What I try to do in all my designs is not just put vegetation in my buildings, I create different types of habitats for different species.”

WOHA has created a scoring system to account for all of this, with points assigned for greenery, biodiversity, community space and self-sufficiency, as well the most abstract concept of “civic generosity” – the contribution of a development to a city’s public life. “You score for connecting habitats rather than creating isolated little pockets in the sky,” says Hassell. If the city is a garden, it’s worth remembering that a garden isn’t purely decorative – it’s a place that is alive.

Can Hong Kong become a biophilic city too? Not unless government relaxes restrictions

Hong Kong is a green city – on paper. Most of its land area is undeveloped and more than half of it is protected by country parks. Everyone has access to untrammelled nature.

Yet the places where people spend most of their time – from the high-rise housing estate of Tseung Kwan O, to the shopping malls of Causeway Bay and the office towers of Central – are anything but green.

And it’s not just because of widespread biophobia – fear of nature – in Hong Kong, where schoolchildren on field trips have been scared to touch the soil, and Stanley residents once opposed a tree-planting scheme because they might attract birds and insects, and spread diseases such as bird flu.

There are other challenges in Hong Kong, too, says Keith Griffiths, director of Aedas, an international architecture firm based in Hong Kong. The biggest problem is the city’s restrictive building code.

Mongkok Residence, by Aedas, is an example of biophilic design in Hong Kong. Photo: Aedas

The Hong Kong government wants to control illegal development – we’ve had some very unfortunate basements and top-of-building developments,” he says. Though some green features are exempted from a development’s gross floor area, architects are forced to work within a very limited spectrum – only 500mm-deep planters are allowed, for instance. Any deviation from the building code’s prescriptions requires applying for special approval – a process that can drag on for years.

The biophilic architecture that results tends to be modest in scope, limited to tacked-on green walls and landscaped podium decks. Griffiths says this is a shame, because Hong Kong is otherwise well suited to architecture that embraces nature. Strong seasonal breezes can provide natural ventilation, and there are many opportunities to frame views of mountains and sea.

“All of that is calming, all of that brings us back with nature,” he says. Architects just don’t have the flexibility to embrace it.

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World’s Oldest Ice

Australian scientists drilling for world’s oldest ice

19 December 2016 Last updated at 16:20 GMT

Australian scientists are joining other countries, including the UK, in a search to find the oldest ice on earth, deep beneath Antarctica.

Ice traps small amounts of air when it freezes, giving scientists a record of the makeup and temperature of the earth’s atmosphere over hundreds of thousands of years.

Now, in an international collaboration, scientists hope to go back a million years.

Video by Sarah Abbott, with footage from the Australian Antarctic Division

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A Training Manual for ISIS and other similar Soldiers. “The Management of Savagery” translated from the Arabic.

This  manual is exceptionally complete .  It even explains how failures are just temporary setbacks, though often actual victories.


The Management of Savagery:
The Most Critical Stage  Through Which the  Umma Will Pass

Abu Bakr Naji

Translated by William McCants

Funding for this translation was provided by the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and any use of this material must include a reference to the Institute.

23 May 2006

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Orthodox Christian father loses religious freedom and parental rights case


OTTAWA – An Orthodox Christian father has lost a religious freedom and parental rights case before the Ontario Superior Court even though the judge agreed his rights were encroached.

  • On Nov. 23, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert B. Reid denied Steve Tourloukis’ request for a declaration of parental authority in education. He also refused a request that the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board be required to accommodate Tourloukis’ religious beliefs.

Constitutional lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, who represented Tourloukis, declined to comment as he and his client are reviewing the court decision.

Tourloukis, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, had requested in 2010 that the board inform him in advance when teachings contrary to his religious beliefs were to be taught so he could remove his two children from class. Among teachings he listed as objectionable were moral relativism, occult practices, sex education, birth control and the promotion of abortion or euthanasia.

The court action began in 2012 and the hearing took place in June 2016.

While Reid agreed Tourloukis’ beliefs are sincerely held and his Charter rights to religious freedom are impinged, he ruled the school board had properly balanced Charter rights with its other legislative obligations to promote safety, inclusivity, equality and tolerance in a multicultural society.

“The context of the board’s decision not to provide the requested accommodation is, in part, the need for religious neutrality and tolerance in a public institution,” the justice wrote.

“It must respect religious difference and attempt not to interfere with the beliefs or practices of any religious group while recognizing there are 103 schools within its jurisdiction.”

He noted there are many differing religious and non-religious beliefs among the thousands of students who attend the schools.

“Accommodation by non-attendance, which is sought by the applicant, would allow him to isolate his children from aspects of the curriculum that in his religious belief would amount to ‘false teachings.’ However, isolation is antithetical to the competing legislative mandate and Charter values favouring inclusivity, equality and multiculturalism.”

The judge found the board’s actions to be “reasonable,” “prudent” and “a practical response.”

He noted that the teacher’s federation submitted that “the curriculum has so fully integrated the requirements for gender equity, antiracism, respect for people with disabilities and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities that it would be impractical if not impossible to advise the applicant in advance when any of the positions that he considers objectionable were to be taught.”

The federation said such an accommodation would create an “undue burden” on teachers.

Tourloukis had other alternatives in pursuing his religious freedom than sending his children to public schools, the judge said.

“Independent schools, whether faith-based or otherwise, may be available as is, of course, the option of homeschooling,” he wrote.

Reid said “some nuance” is required on the matter of parental rights. “A black-and white declaration of parental authority in favour of the applicant would, in my view, oversimplify the common law principles with which neither party disagrees.

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An international research team based at the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) in Austria have discovered both a cause and treatment for certain autism spectrum disorders

VIENNA, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) — An international research team based at the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) in Austria have discovered both a cause and treatment for certain autism spectrum disorders, Austria Press Agency reported on Thursday.

The team, led by Gaia Novarino from the IST, found that a large neutral amino acid transporter known as SLC7A5 that is essential in maintaining normal levels of branched-chain amino acids in the brain was found to have shown mutations in several patients with autistic traits.

It was further discovered in testing on mice that the deletion of SLC7A5 led to an irregular amino acid profile in the brain and severe neurological abnormalities.

When the researchers administered branched-chain amino acids directly to the brain, they discovered an improvement in the abnormal behaviors of the mice with an autism profile.

The team said its data showed SLC7A5 mutations as being linked to a neurological syndrome, and that branched-chain amino acids have an essential role in human brain function.

Following further research, it said a cure for a certain group of autism patients could be found in the future.

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