Delhi air pollution spikes in Diwali; US troops could not see hospital during attack; Pakistan wants early implementation of regional energy project
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Anxiety Grows as Conditions Worsen in Afghanistan,” by Philip Reeves (NPR) U.S. troops could not see Kunduz hospital during attack The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the U.S. Special Forces troops who called in the air strike on the Doctors Without Borders Kunduz hospital did so at the request of their ...
Bonus Read: “Anxiety Grows as Conditions Worsen in Afghanistan,” by Philip Reeves (NPR)
U.S. troops could not see Kunduz hospital during attack
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the U.S. Special Forces troops who called in the air strike on the Doctors Without Borders Kunduz hospital did so at the request of their Afghan counterparts and could not see the target (NYT). The Afghans insisted that the hospital had become a command and control center for the Taliban and urged it to be destroyed, according to a former U.S. intelligence official. Members of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group who were involved in the attack have told U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, an armed services committee member, that they were unaware their target was a functioning hospital until the attack was over, according to Hunter’s spokesman, Joe Kasper. However, leadership knew the hospital was treating patients, according to a daily log by one of its senior officers written Oct. 2. Doctors Without Borders made sure the U.S. military command in Kabul had the exact coordinates of the hospital the day before the strike.
President Ghani and CEO Abdullah meet with protest representatives
On Wednesday, President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah held a late night meeting with representatives of the Hazara demonstrators who surrounded the presidential palace in protest after the bodies of seven Hazaras were found nearly beheaded early in the week (TOLO News, Post). The Kabul protest inspired hundreds of demonstrators to march through the streets of major cities in Balkh, Herat, and Nangarhar provinces, demanding better security for all Afghans. The official meeting was televised live nationally, and the representatives were given a chance to air their grievances. The representatives said their main concern is the lack of police presence in their districts. “Even women are having to take turns to safeguard their areas,” according to one representative. Ghani and Abdullah warned the representatives — some of whom are calling for their ouster — that any bid to bring down the government would not be in the best interest of the nation.
Bonus Read: “India’s Rising Tides and Temperatures,” by Matt McCann (NYT)
Delhi air pollution spikes in Diwali
Air pollution in the Indian capital of Delhi hit dangerous levels on Wednesday during celebrations of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali (BBC, HT, TOI). Diwali festivities include setting off massive amounts of fireworks, which release significant amounts of hazardous particulate matter into the air. On Wednesday night, the levels of toxic particulate matter, known as PM10 particulates, increased to 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter, 40 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Many areas near the capital were also found to have elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, which can cause a host of respiratory symptoms. Levels of PM10 particulates have increased in Delhi by 47 percent from 2000 to 2011, and a WHO survey rates Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. The Hindustan Times reported that on Wednesday night, air pollution levels were as much as 23 times higher than Delhi’s average levels in the most polluted areas of the city. According to the WHO, air pollution is a leading cause of premature death in India, as about 620,000 Indians die each year from pollution-related diseases.
Facebook blocks more content in India than in other countries
In the first six months of this year, Facebook has censored more content at the request of the government in India than in any other country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (WSJ). Since the beginning of the year, Facebook has granted requests from Indian authorities to block 15,155 pieces of content on its social media platform, its WhatsApp and Messenger apps, and its Instagram photo-sharing app – more than triple the 4,960 pieces of content blocked in the same period last year and 73.7 percent of all content restricted worldwide. According to a Facebook report, the requests to block content in India were made “under local laws prohibiting criticism of a religion or the state.” A spokesperson from the company declined to speculate on the reason for India’s increase. Turkey had the second most content blocked with 4,496 requests granted, while France came in third with 295 requests.
Fitch praises FDI reforms
International ratings agency Fitch Ratings lauded the Indian government on Thursday for its announced liberalization of foreign direct investment (FDI) rules (NDTV). The new rules were announced on Monday and make it easier for foreign investors to invest in 15 sectors of India’s economy. The reforms include an increase in the limit for FDI approvals by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board to 50 billion rupees ($755 million), up from the previous limit of 30 billion rupees ($453 million) – investments above the threshold require cabinet approval. A statement from Fitch identified the change as a major structural macroeconomic reform that will promote long-term investment and real GDP growth. Fitch projected a GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent for India this year and an increase to 8.0 percent in 2016 and 2017.
Pakistan wants early implementation of regional energy project
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on Thursday that Pakistan desires early implementation of the CASA-1000 power project, a regional energy project between Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan (Dawn, TOLO News). The project will enable Pakistan to import 1,000 megawatts of electricity to meet its growing energy needs. Pakistan consumes about 450 kilowatts per capita of electricity each year. “Pakistan is keen for implementation of Casa-1000 project, and hopes the project will be completed by 2018,” Radio Pakistan quoted Sharif as saying during the delegation-level talks between Pakistan and Tajikistan in Islamabad. Pakistan has been gripped by severe energy shortages for several years, with parts of the country facing electricity outages for up to 20 hours a day.
–Alyssa Sims and Udit Banerjea
Edited by Peter Bergen
Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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