Demonetisation Be Damned! The Indian Rupee Is On A Tear

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

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Demonetisation be damned! The Indian rupee is on a tear

March 17, 2017 Quartz India

It’s been a great week for the Indian rupee.

On March 16, at Rs65.41 per US dollar, the currency hit a one-year high against the greenback.

Much of the strengthening has to do with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recent electoral wins in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhandand solid performances in two other states. The strong showing reflects just how well the party is positioned to sweep the next general elections in 2019 and hand Narendra Modi a second term as prime minister. Some of that magic is rubbing off on the markets.

“Since the start of the week, equity markets and the Indian rupee have rallied sharply in response to the strong performance of the main ruling party in recent state elections,” DBS Bank said in a March 16 report.

So far, the Indian currency has been the third-best performing in Asia in 2017. The rupee has gained 3.4% this year against the US dollar, only trailing the South Korean won and the Taiwanese Dollar.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike on March 15—only the third since the economic crisis of 2008—hit the dollar. When the US dollar falls, capital outflows from emerging markets are restricted, thus strengthening local currencies like the Indian rupee.

The rupee’s strengthening comes after a free fall triggered by Modi’s move to demonetise 86% of the currency notes (by value) in November 2016. Initially it had been estimated that the currency ban would dent the GDP and take a toll on the economy.

In January, a Reuters poll of some 30 foreign exchange strategists had estimated that the Indian currency could see a record fall this year because of the currency ban. But India’s Central Statistical Office’s estimates show that the economy grew at 7% during the October-December 2016 quarter, and the rupee is holding strong.

One reason for the rupee’s surge is also that the macro-economic factors that influence a currency—inflation and current account deficit (CAD)—are looking good for India at the moment. While inflation is being restricted in its safe zone of sub 6%, India’s CAD (the excess of imports over exports) has also been falling.

What next

A strong rupee is good news for corporate India. Many firms hold debt in foreign currencies, so a fall in the exchange rate means their interest outgo will reduce. “Many Indian entities including short-term trade finance people remain unhedged for their offshore liability. They (companies) are likely to have gained from the rupee’s sharp rise in the last few days. At least, interest liability has reduced, adding to balance sheet gains,” Jayesh Mehta, country treasurer at Bank of America told the Economic Times.

However, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could soon step in to stabilise the rupee’s movement. Some reports suggest that the central bank already is buying dollars through public sector banks.

“The rupee appreciation, we feel is not sustainable and would revert to the range of Rs66-66.5 range, to begin with as the fundamentals do not warrant such unbridled enthusiasm,” a report by CARE Ratings said. “The outcome of the elections has been the main driving force. A strong rupee may not be good for our exports and the RBI is cognizant of the same.”

Trump The Moron At It Again: Saying Obama Got The British Intelligence Agency To Spy On Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

White House Seeks to Allay British Concerns Over Unfounded Wiretapping Claim

11:43 AM ET
White House officials tried to calm the concerns of British allies after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated an unfounded claim that the British spy service spied on President Trump. But the White House is stopping short of saying it offered an apology to its closest foreign ally.

“[British Ambassador to the U.S.] Kim Darroch and [National Security Advisor] Sir Mark Lyall expressed their concerns to Sean Spicer and General McMaster,” a White House official said Friday. “Mr. Spicer and General McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story.”

Several British outlets reported Friday that the White House apologized to the U.K. government, but the White House would not confirm those accounts.

The row began Thursday, as Spicer repeated the claim of Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano, who suggested that former President Obama had ordered GCHQ, the U.K.’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, to spy on his successor. For nearly two weeks the White House has been struggling to justify Trump’s assertion in a March 4 tweet that Obama had him “wire tapped.”

On Thursday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee jointly stated they’ve seen no evidence of any surveillance of Trump Tower. Even Trump allies in Congress are staying away from the claim, though Trump maintained Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he would be vindicated by new information “very soon.” The White House has argued that Trump’s use of quotation marks around the phrase wires tapped implied he meant all manners of surveillance against him, but hasn’t offered any official proof of the claim, beyond reports in the press.

Reading a long list of media reports that mentioned alleged signals intelligence about Trump and his ties to Russia, Spicer quoted comments.

“Last, on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement,” Spicer said during the daily White House briefing. “‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ, what is that? It’s the initials for the British Intelligence Spying Agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, “The President needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,” he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.'”

Within hours GCHQ responded in a rare statement calling the claim “utterly ridiculous.

“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” a GCHQ spokesperson said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Asked by a reporter whether the subject of GCHQ’s alleged involvement had raised between the two governments and whether it would affect the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K., Spicer backtracked.

“No, no, it has not been raised,” Spicer said. “But I do think that, again, we’re not — all we’re doing is literally reading off what other stations and people have reported, and I think that casts into concern some of the activities that may have occurred during the ’16 election. We’re not casting judgment on that. I think the idea is to say that if these organizations, these individuals came to these conclusions, they merit looking into.”

The claim is all the more incendiary given the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries. The U.S. and the U.K., along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, form the Five Eyes — a decades-old intelligence cooperative in which the countries share much of their signals intelligence and pledge not to spy on each another.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May told The Independent that the White House would not float the claims again. “We’ve made clear to the Administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we’ve received assurances they won’t be repeated.”

Israeli Jets Strike Inside Syria; Military Site Near Palmyra Reportedly Targeted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted

An Israeli fighter jet takes off from the Ramat David ar base, southeast of Haifa, in June.

Story highlights

  • Syria says strikes targeted military site near Palmyra
  • Israeli jets make incursions inside Syria, but IDF rarely confirms it

Jerusalem (CNN) In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of the Syrian conflict six-years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight, the Israeli military said Friday.

Israel targeted a military site near the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian military said, in what would be one of its deepest airstrikes inside Syrian territory since the civil war began there.
Palmyra, once held by ISIS and retaken by the Syrian government, is strategically important to both the regime and its opponents.
Most of Israel’s reported strikes have been around the capital of Damascus, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions, calling them “absolutely not true.”
“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. The statement is unusual in that Israel rarely comments on airstrikes in Syria.
The intercept triggered alarm sirens in the Jordan Valley. Shrapnel from the explosion, which was heard as far south as Jerusalem, landed in western Jordan, the Jordanian military said.

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed Israeli plane

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed an Israeli plane
Syria’s latest claims are reminiscent of its statement in September about downing an Israeli aircraft near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights. Israel seized parts of that region from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said then that Syria fired two anti-aircraft missiles at its jets targeting artillery positions, but both missiles missed. They were fired long after Israeli jets left the area, the military added.

Arrow missile defense

One of the missiles overnight was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use. Arrow, Israel’s ballistic missile defense system and the long-range version of its Iron Dome, is designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere.
The use came more than a year after the first successful Arrow-3 intercept test was carried out in December 2015. At that time, Israeli officials would not say when the missile would become operational.
The Israeli military would not explain why Arrow was used against an anti-aircraft missile, fueling speculation that Israel was either testing the Arrow missile or that its Iron Dome missile defense system wasn’t within range of downing the anti-aircraft missile.

Taking aim at weapons smuggling

Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.
In December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a delegation of European Union envoys that Israel will “prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
It was another acknowledgement of Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. Last April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel has struck Syria “dozens of times,” breaking with the policy of remaining quiet about involvement in its war-torn northern neighbor.
Netanyahu returned last week from Moscow, where he reaffirmed Israel’s military coordination with Russia in the skies over Syria. The two countries established the coordination last year to avoid conflicts in Syrian airspace, ostensibly to allow both countries to operate freely. Netanyahu also expressed his concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria.

Repeated incursions

Israel has attempted to stay out of Syria’s civil war but has reportedly struck the country multiple times in the past, often taking aim at weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As recently as late February, Syrian media reported that Israeli jets hit military positions and weapons convoys near Damascus.
In November 2012, Israel fired warning shots toward Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli military post, the first time Israel had fired on Syria across the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israeli jets have been hitting targets in Syria since at least 2013, when US officials told CNN they believed IDF jets had struck nside Syrian territory.
In 2014, the Syrian government and an opposition group both said an IDF strike had hit Damascus’ suburbs and airport.

Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria

 Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency characterized those strikes as “a flagrant attack on Syria, targeting two safe areas in (the) Damascus countryside in Dimas and near Damascus International Airport.”
Israeli strikes have also gone after ISIS fighters inside Syria. Late last year, IDF troops operating in the disputed Golan region came under fire from militants of the ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The soldiers fired back, triggering an exchange of gunfire. A subsequent Israeli airstrike destroyed a vehicle carrying four militants, Lerner said.

So Turkey’s Sunni Dictator Er-Dog-an Calls European Countries Nazi Because They Won’t Allow Him To Rule Them

 

So the Sunni Dictator Dog of Turkey, the man who has ruined the lives of his people with his hate and his ego has the gall to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s. When he first took power in Turkey the country and it’s people lived in relative peace with its neighbors and within its own borders. Turkey was the crown jewel in the Middle-East of the countries that had a majority Islamic population as far as people of various religions being free to worship as they pleased. There were many Gothic Churches that were hundreds of years old that dotted the landscape of this beautiful restive country. Now by my understanding of the many different articles I have read over the past few years several of these landmark Churches have either been destroyed or turned into Sunni Mosque.

 

Since Er-Dog-an has been in power he has through his policies created a situation where it is rather common for the people to have to try to survive car and truck bombs as well as suicide attacks on not just Turkey’s police and military personnel but on the civilians themselves. He had created tensions with Russia and with Israel before recently correcting this error, at least publicly. I say publicly because if you honestly think that Russia’s President Putin or Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consider him a friend or that they trust him you are being quite delusional. He has spent his time in power doing mainly one thing and that is to gain more power and control over every aspect of life within the borders of Turkey. He has invaded his Shiite neighbor Syria and is not welcome in Iran or Iraq. Yet personally I believe that one of his biggest most arrogant and stupid policies has been his constant assault on the Kurdish people. The Dog has made it very plain that he wants nothing to do with peace with this huge ethnicity of people that live in the eastern part of Turkey. He could have peace with them if he wasn’t so darn greedy. The Kurdish people simply want their own homeland and being they already had settled in the eastern part of Turkey it would have been easy to have had peace with them by simply letting this small part of Turkey be officially theirs. Then the two Nations could have easily become good neighbors, brothers, sisters and trading partners. There would have been peace this way and many people who are now dead would still be alive. He has been playing the EU against Russia card trying to see how much he can get from both sides. He cared so little for his countrymen that instead of sealing off their border with Syria and not allowing millions of refugees to enter Turkey at all he let them in then has used them as bargaining chips with the EU trying to extort money and EU membership from them.

 

Now this egomaniac Dictator dares to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s because of their policies that he personally doesn’t like. Think about this for a moment please, why is he slandering the leadership of these two countries? In Rotterdam they are going to be having elections very soon and Turkey has a huge number of Turk people living there now and there was going to be a big rally that the Turk Foreign Minister was going to address and the government decided to not let him show up. What is going on is very simple, if the Turk population grows to a high enough level they can then have more control of the laws passed in that country. If a minority population can gain control of a foreign country and they are loyalist to their home Dictator, this Dictator can have a huge effect on being the defacto Ruler of that Nation. Do not be naive, the people who believe in the teachings of ‘the prophet’ Mohammed know that they are ordered to infiltrate Infidel countries and when they have sufficient numbers to attack from within and to take control of the country and then to convert everyone there to Islam. The easiest way to take control of a Democratic country is through the ballot box, then if that doesn’t work, take it by force. Europe is starting to wake up and many of the people of Europe’s Nations are realizing the dangers they are having now and that it will only get much worse if they allow Islamic believing people to settle in their country. It is obvious why this Sunni egomaniac used the slur of Nazism toward Germany because the pain of their past but when this horse’s behind referred to the Netherlands the same way he showed his ignorance and his hate as well as pure stupidity. The worse thing that has happened to the Nation of Turkey since world war two has been allowing this madman to continue breathing within their borders. I say this because as he proves constantly like this upcoming referendum to give him alone even more power to rule as a King or a god would, he is only interested in making as many people as possible bow to his power, even Nations outside of Turkey’s current borders. If the EU Leaders in Brussels ever allow Turkey or any Islamic Nation to become part of the EU, that will be the kiss of death for their Countries and their way of life, and their very lives.

Why These Indian State Elections Matter To The Whole World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Why these Indian state elections matter to the whole world

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow in support of state assembly election party candidates in Varanasi on March 4.

New Delhi (CNN) India’s ruling political party has won a crucial state election, strengthening its ability to push through a development agenda in the world’s fastest growing major economy.

As vote counts trickled in from five state elections on Saturday, one result loomed large: that of central India’s Uttar Pradesh, home to more than 200 million people. The staggered five-week vote in that state alone marks the biggest election in the world in 2017.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or the BJP, looks poised to take about 75% of the 403 seats on offer in Uttar Pradesh.
The clear majority means the BJP will be able to form a state government without the help of other parties. In the previous Uttar Pradesh election, in 2012, the BJP won only 47 seats. 2017’s vote marks a significant endorsement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP, and the face of its campaign across state elections.
Four other, smaller states declared results on Saturday: Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur. In Punjab, India’s storied but declining Congress Party emerged victorious. The BJP took Uttarakhand and was vying for dominance in close races in Goa and Manipur as results continued to be firmed up.
The state elections are crucial at national level because each state nominates a proportional number of representatives to India’s upper house of parliament.
While the BJP has a clear majority in the lower house — won in 2014’s national vote — it is underrepresented in the upper house, which has stymied some of its reform proposals.

A referendum on Modi

According to Shailesh Kumar of the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, the Uttar Pradesh result was a referendum on Modi.
“Voters largely support his policies. The win indicates that Modi’s efforts to tackle corruption were a far bigger draw than any negative consequence attributed to demonetization.”
“Demonetization” refers to a shock move in November when Modi recalled all 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes.
The two high-value notes represented 86% of all cash in circulation in India. The surprise recall, and the subsequent release of new 500 and 2000 rupee notes, led to weeks of long queues at banks and ATMs across the country.
At the time, Modi said the recall was aimed at cracking down on corrupt hoarders of untaxed cash. A number of reputed global economists, included Harvard’s Lawrence Summers and Ken Rogoff criticized Modi’s move as excessive.
On the campaign in Uttar Pradesh last month, Modi refuted their criticisms by saying “hard work beats Harvard.”

Economy and tackling corruption still the focus for now

The results themselves are not a great surprise, but the margin of the BJPs win in Uttar Pradesh is greater than predicted.
However, even with the landslide win in Uttar Pradesh, Modi will still fall short of enough support in the parliament’s upper house, says Eurasia’s Kumar.
“Modi’s national focus will still be economic development with an added focus on corruption. Changes to economic policies will be through executive action and tweaks to regulations that do not require legislative approval.”
Modi is also expected to double down on his plans to improve infrastructure.
“He is now well positioned for 2019,” Kumar said, referring to the next national elections.

India shows faith in Modi — can he now deliver?

At a time of global anger against elected leaders, India’s state elections represent a vote of confidence for the country’s Prime Minister, as well as a much-needed boost of morale.
Modi had previously lost an important election in Bihar, a state which shares a similar voter base to Uttar Pradesh. Modi also suffered in recent months with the chaos and fallout from his demonetization move.
With a cutback in consumer spending and economic activity, economists had predicted a fall of as much as one percentage point in India’s growth rate.
However, in India’s most recent GDP figures released last month, quarterly growth had slowed only slightly to 7%, which meant India once again edged ahead of China as the world’s fastest growing economy.
While India is still seen as a developing nation, its size and speed of expansion underscore its massive importance to the global economy. According to the consulting group PwC, India accounts for about one-sixth of the world’s GDP growth.
With Modi now firmly ensconced in power until at least 2019, and perhaps further ahead, the focus will now shift to whether Modi can deliver on his promises of rapid development.

2,000 Jewish Teens On Spiritual Tour De Force In New York City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

2,000 Jewish Teens on Spiritual Tour de Force in New York City

Students are coming in from all over the world, to then bring the spirit of the Shabbaton back home

Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

“How many people can show up in Times Square and have a mad Jewish party there?” asks Koby Lerner, rhetorically.

The 16-year-old from San Diego will be one of more than 2,000 Jewish teenagers from countries around the world to share in a Havdalah ceremony and spend Saturday night in New York’s iconic neighborhood at Broadway and Seventh Avenue as part of the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton, to take place Feb. 24-26. And that’s only a part of a weekend of spirited (and spiritual) celebrations, learning, touring, socializing and more.

Koby recalls the first time he attended the Shabbaton two years ago and his first impression of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y. “At first, it seemed like we didn’t fit in there because we didn’t have black hats and white shirts,” he says. “But it didn’t matter at all to anybody there: They loved us unconditionally. You could feel the love from these random strangers.”

RELATED

These numbers, according to Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, “are a testament to the dedicated Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who have worked tirelessly to bring Jewish teens closer to Yiddishkeit.”

In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)
In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)

Rabbi Mendy Mottal, Chabad emissary of CTeen Paris, is accompanying 207 participants from throughout France to New York. “Each year, the energy and effort that is poured into making this event is incredible,” he says. “Our teens always have an uplifting and inspiring experience, much of which I attribute to the incredible community feeling that Crown Heights offers us.”

This year, for the first time, CTeen will welcome chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil, making this the largest international group ever. And as many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York.

Rabbi Aizik Rosenfeld of the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Community Center in Moscow will be accompanied by 22 teens to the Shabbaton, none of whom have ever been to the United States before. “They’re really pumped up,” says Rosenfeld. “New York is like a dream come true; it’s what America means to them.”

The students will be hosted by local families and experience a traditional Shabbat, similar to what it was like for many of their great-grandparents and forefathers, adds the rabbi.

Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)
Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)

“It will be an interesting experience for them, keeping Shabbat from beginning to end,” says Rosenfeld, who moved to Moscow three years ago with his wife, Blumi. He remembers being amazed at “how much liberty there is now, how much openness there is as far as Yiddishkeit in general. Still, the density of Jewish life in Moscow, growing as it is, remains very different from Crown Heights.”

For these young people, he says, every small step—such as putting on tefillinonce a week or observing Shabbat to any extent—is a huge change.

Similar to the Russian students, Rabbi Chai Kohan, head of CTeen Español, adds that “the draw for many arriving from South and Central America is the chance to meet other Jewish teens from around the world. Most of them have never traveled to the United States.”

The worldwide growth of CTeen programs like the Shabbaton is thanks to the Meromim Foundation, spearheaded by Rabbi Bentzi Lipskier. To date, the foundation has sponsored more than 40 CTeen Chabad couples under the “New Shluchim Initiative.”

The Shabbaton comes just days after thousands of women filled Brooklyn as part of the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos).

CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)
CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)

‘Part of Your Journey’

In New York, teens will get to visit some of the city’s major attractions: the Statue of Liberty, the new One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial, Midtown, Uptown, Downtown and more—and will spend Shabbat learning, eating, praying and getting to know one another.

Participants will also get a tour of Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, and the President Street home and the study of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. And they will visit the Ohel, the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y.

Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)
Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)

Victoria Lamport, 17, from Tampa, Fla., sees the recreational parts of the Shabbaton as intrinsically connected to its more religious aspects. “It’s fun to see all your friends, to reconnect and to meet new people,” she says, “but the spiritual side to it is also the fact that you’re around so many people who are as motivated as you are . . . people who want to help, people who want to be a part of your journey, people doing certain mitzvahs for the first time and seeing how it affects them.”

She has seen that transformative energy work in her own family. “What is really awesome,” says the high school senior, “is that as I started to learn more, my family also got more involved. My dad started having the rabbi over every other week to learn. It’s been amazing to see the impact that Chabad has had on our lives.”

She hopes to spend the summer focusing on Jewish studies before starting a pre-med curriculum at college. “When I’m learning is when I really feel; I can almost feel my neshamah [‘soul’]. I don’t really know how to explain it. I just feel it—like I have a purpose in this world.”

Koby relates how exposure to the strong camaraderie that Victoria describes has been “life-changing.” Last summer, the California native went on the “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp out West, staying on afterwards for a yeshivah program. “I liked it so much I decided I didn’t want to go home, so I convinced my parents to let me stay.” Now, Koby lives and learns full-time at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in Los Angeles.

Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

Youths Into Leaders

For many teens, the inspiration continues long after the Shabbaton is over.

“My daughter, Sydney, was always deathly afraid of getting up to speak, even to our own family,” says Craig Winawer of Dix Hills, N.Y. “Recently, I watched her make a 10-minute speech in front of our of whole shul about CTeen and the Shabbaton. This is a kid who you can barely get to say three words at our Passover seder.”

Ever since Sydney became involved four years ago, her father has watched his shy daughter transform into a real leader. Today, she is member of the CTeen International Board.

A little anxiety, however, isn’t just relegated to teenagers. Brochie Levin of Chabad Lubavitch of Alberta in Calgary, Canada, acknowledges that “as a new shlucha to CTeen, I was nervous about bringing in a group for the Shabbaton. But the amount of advice, prep and work that was put into helping us was incredible. Our teens are so excited—and so are we.”

To learn more about CTeen International and the Shabbaton, click here.

The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)

THE TRUTH ABOUT ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

THE TRUTH ABOUT ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

SETTLEMENTS ARE NOT THE MAJOR OBSTACLE TO PEACE

While settlements can be a source of conflict, they are not the major obstacle to peace. From 1948-1967 no Israeli settlements existed, yet the Palestinian leadership and the Arab World still sought Israel’s annihilation.

Ma'ale Adumim
As a result of the resounding Israeli victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel gained the “West Bank,” “Gaza,” ”Golan Heights” and “East Jerusalem.” Less than a week after the war ended, the Israeli unity government under PM Levi Eshkol affirmed – and then told the Americans — that Israel would return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for signed peace treaties. Separate negotiations would then be conducted regarding the future of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the refugee issue. While Egypt accepted the Sinai offer, Syria rejected the Golan Heights offer. Negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza failed.

SETTLEMENTS DO NOT JEOPARDIZE FUTURE “LAND FOR PEACE” DEALS

In the meantime, some Israelis took up residence in areas around Jerusalem that were across the 1967 armistice lines. These Israeli developments, known as “Settlements,” only take up around 2% of West Bank land. Over time, US Administrations recognized that Israel would retain some of these towns in any peace agreement.

Israel has uprooted other settlements such as those in the Gaza Strip. In 2005 Israel evacuated all the Jewish families living in Gaza—a total population of 8,000. However, instead of making peace, Hamas—a terrorist organization—took over the Gaza Strip and responded by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities in the ensuing years.

THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT IS NOT BUILDING NEW SETTLEMENTS

For years, the only legal construction allowed by the Israeli government has been within existing communities to accommodate the natural growth of resident families. Illegal outposts, which do not conform to Israel’s policies, do exist. Some critics fault the Israeli government for not dealing with them more forcefully, but the government works to resolve the issue peacefully or by court order.

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS MAY NOT BE ILLEGAL AT ALL  [1]

Many legal scholars question whether Settlements are illegal at all. Eugene V. Rostow, one of the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242—written after the 1967 war to create a framework for peace negotiations—stated, “The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors.” Moreover, Rostow contended that “The Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.”

Others contend that the Geneva Convention, passed after WWII, makes the Settlements illegal. The December 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Vote—passed due to the US government’s abstention—declared them illegal and opened the door to future international actions against Israel.

PALESTINIANS ARE BUILDING ILLEGALLY AROUND JERUSALEM [2]

All of the governments and international bodies that criticize Israel for building what many claim to be legal communities are silent about the construction of new Palestinian developments surrounding Jerusalem. According to a detailed article by Bassam Tawil of the Gatestone Institute, the questionable construction is primarily in Zone-C, which under the Oslo Peace Accords should be territory controlled by Israel. According to Tawil, Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have built more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. These are not single family homes, but massive apartment complexes without proper licenses, not built to code, and some without proper sewage. The article claims that many of the “contractors” are land-thieves and thugs who are building without permission on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad.

THE MAJOR OBSTACLE TO PEACE IS PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP

The Palestinian leadership’s refusal to give up the conflict, recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and renounce the “right of return” for most Palestinian refugees, is the real obstacle to peace. The so-called “right of return” would allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to flood Israel. No Israeli leader would ever accept the “right of return,” since it would mean the end of the world’s only Jewish state. Yet, the Palestinian leadership has never told its own people that they must forfeit this claim in order to achieve peace.

President Trump Call India’s Prime Minister Modi “A True Friend And Partner”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Trump tells Modi India ‘a true friend and partner’, invites PM to US ‘later this year’

WORLD Updated: Jan 25, 2017 07:26 IST

Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington

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US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a scheduled telephonic conversation at 11:30pm IST on Tuesday.(Agencies File)

In a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US considers India a “true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world”, according to a White House statement.The two leaders also discussed opportunities to “strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense”, the statement said without citing specific areas, sectors or goals.

Modi and Trump, who were speaking for the first time after the new US president took charge last Friday, also discussed “security in the region of South and Central Asia” and, once again the statement left out details.

South and Central Asia cover many areas of mutual interest to both India and the United States including Pakistan and Afghanistan and it could not be immediately confirmed if they discussed the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan.

Read more

But the two leaders resolved, according to the White House statement, “that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism”, which has been a priority for both of them and both countries.

Trump is hosting Modi later in the year, but it was, once again, not immediately clear if that will be in September-October when the Indian prime minister comes to the US for the UN general assembly meeting, or some other time.

But the two, who first spoke in November when Modi was among the first foreign leaders to call Trump on his election, are likely to meet during the next meeting of the G-20, which is scheduled to take place in Hamburg, Germany in July.

Since that first call, India engaged with Trump on two separate occasions: The first was a meeting between Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar and then Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, and the second on December 19 when Ajit Doval, national security adviser to PM Modi, met Trump’s NSA Michael Flynn.

Read more

And now the call. The US statement contained no details and it was not known if trade in services, read H-1B, came up during their phone call, as many had expected, since it being the one issue that had agitated New Delhi the most about Trump.

The fate of the temporary US visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers, which is at the heart to India’s burgeoning IT exports to the US, seemed uncertain, given the president’s own reservations about it, and those of leading members of his team.

They believe the H-1B programme is being abused by the US companies to outsource American jobs to temporary foreign workers, a large number of them from India, and they have been considering ways to make it harder for that to happen.

“There is no other area of potential dispute or differences with the United States under President Trump,” said an Indian official, who spoke strictly on background. He added, “H-1B is the only problem for us as of now.”

In response to a question about India-US relations, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had said Monday that as with other countries, the Trump administration is focussed on access to markets in manufacturing and services.

Since being sworn-in last Friday, the new president has begun engaging with world leaders and has spoken to prime minister and president of neighboring Canada and Mexico first — with whom he plans to renegotiate the NAFTA trade deal.

He has also talked since with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who he has invited to to a meeting in early February. And he meets Teresa May, prime minister of America’s closest ally the United Kingdom, on Friday.

The Tuesday call with Modi, on the second day of Trump’s first week in office, is being taken as sign of the priority he is attaching to the relationship, after an unprecedented outreach to the Indian American community during election.

At an election rally in New Jersey, Trump had said on his watch as president that India and the US will be “best friends” and, added in a typically Trumpian hyperbole that “there will be no relationship more important to me”.

At the suggestion of the Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalli Kumar, who had organised the rally, Trump recorded a campaign call modeled on Modi’s election slogan “Abki baar Modi sarkar”, replacing Modi with Trump.

Also, Prime Minister Modi appears to have an admirer in Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counseller to the president, who had in 2014 called Modi’s election a “great victory … very much based on … Reaganesque principles”.

Bannon was then chief executive officer of Breitbart News, a stridently conservative news publication, and would become in 2016 a leading and early supporter of Trump, and later went on to head his campaign in August.

Flaws In India’s Military Equipment Is Putting Their Soldiers At Risk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

HT Exclusive| Flaws put lives of soldiers at risk, says army report

INDIA Updated: Jan 10, 2017 01:17 IST

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

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A soldier takes position outside a General Reserve Engineer Force camp in Akhnoor sector, near Jammu, where three civilians were killed in a militant attack. (AP Photo)

At a time when military is increasingly coming under attack in Jammu and Kashmir, an army report has pointed out at least 50 gaps — ranging from body armour, night-vision gear to flawed fuel storage — that pose a threat to soldiers’ lives.If the army doesn’t make fuel storage safer at its forward bases, it could risk the lives of thousands of soldiers.

Militant strikes can cause greater damage not because of their sophistication but because tens of thousands of litres of fuel is being stored in make-shift shelters, says the document.

“The enormity of the problem can be gauged from the aftermath of the recent terrorist action on the FOL (fuel, oil and lubricants) dump at Uri,” says the report on Future Core Technologies and Problem Statements.

Nineteen soldiers were killed when suspected Pakistani militants struck at an army base in Uri in September. Fourteen of the troops were burnt alive as their tents were pitched next to a fuel dump.

The attack, one of the worst against the army in the border state, forced a rethink on fuel storage.

The army design bureau (ADB), inaugurated last August, has identified FOL storage in forward bases as one of the 50 problems that need to be resolved swiftly.

An initiative of the Modi government, the ADB has been tasked with promoting research and development and act as a bridge between the force and the private sector to meet the army’s requirements.

The ADB has stressed on the need for smart vests for soldiers with built-in codes for identification, sniper scopes to engage targets with greater precision and robots to carry equipment in high-altitude areas, including Siachen glacier.

The document, published by the CII, says “vintage barrels and jerrycans” used for storage and transportation of fuel are vulnerable, increasing the “scope for collateral damage”.

Make-shift fuel storage facilities are susceptible to enemy shelling and fire hazards, too.

The army has sought the help of academia and the industry to develop alternative mechanisms for storage. “In Uri, the soldiers were sitting ducks and even the terrorists must not have expected to kill so many of them,” a senior officer said.

The army is looking at solutions developed by other countries. These include “pillow tanks” used by Nato forces, collapsible storage containers used by the US marines and “quick tanks” with aluminium frames.

The report suggests use of lighter and fire resistant material for tanks, with capacity to hold more than 50,000 litres of fuel.

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

INDIA Updated: Dec 31, 2016 23:57 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Highlight Story

People watching live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at an electronic shop in Patna on Saturday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a slew of schemes on Saturday evening to herald a prosperous 2017 for the urban and rural poor, farmers, small businessmen, senior citizens and pregnant women.Modi started on a sombre note. For the first 23 minutes, he mainly thanked his countrymen for braving the cash crunch, iterated why demonetisation was a necessary weapon in his fight against black money and corruption and warned of more action against the dishonest.

“The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest, protect them, and see that their difficulties are eased,” he said.

Read: Full transcript of PM Narendra Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

In his address made to the nation on the very day the demonetisation exercise ended, the Prime Minister did not say much about curbs on withdrawals. He only said everyone in the government has been told that banking operations must return to normal as soon as possible.

Then he switched to announcement mode, rattling out enough measures to make his speech sound like a mini-budget.

The first in his list for 2017 were two housing schemes under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY). For the urban poor, home loans up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4% interest exemption, and loans up to Rs 12 lakh will get 3%. In villages, home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get 3% interest exemption. This would apply not only to loans for building new houses but also those taken for renovating or expanding an existing one.

In all, Modi said 33% more homes will be built in rural areas under the PMAY.

There was more for the rural poor, who got the lion’s share of the announcements. The govt will pay interest for 60 days on loans taken by farmers for Rabi farming from district cooperative banks and societies. It will give the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (Nabard) Rs 20,000 crore, which the bank will use for giving loans to cooperatives at low interest rates. Some 30 million kisan credit cards will be converted to RuPay cards, so their holders can make non-cash transactions at a large number of places.

Read: Focus on poor, small businesses: 5 highlights from PM Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

There was also a fair bit for small businessmen, generally referred to as MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). In a scheme under which the government guarantees loans raised by them, the limit has been doubled to Rs 2 crore. This will also cover loans from NBFCs. Banks have been told to raise the cash credit limit to small businesses from 20% to 25%.

Banks, the Prime Minister noted, tend to decrease interest payable on deposits when they are flush with funds – as they are now. The government will not allow them to pay senior citizens anything less than 8% on deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh made for 10 years.

To reduce deaths during child birth, the government will deposit Rs 6,000 into the accounts of pregnant women. It can be used for registration and vaccination, among other things.

Modi also packed a punch for his political rivals. “The time has come for all political parties and leaders to respect the feelings of honest citizens and understand their anger. I urge them to move away from their holier-than-thou approach, and take actual steps towards reforming the system and getting rid of black money and corruption,” he said.

Read: BJP compliments, rivals criticise PM Modi’s New Year’s eve address