Thursday, 5 March 2015

Barack Obama

Nguồn tin: nguontinviet.com

"Before we get too depressed about the state of our politics, let's remember our history. The great debates of the past, all stirred great passions. They all made somebody angry, and at least once led to a terrible war. What is amazing, is that despite all the conflict, our experiment in democracy has worked better than any form of government on earth."

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Reverend Sean Parker Dennison

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"The ability to see beauty is the beginning of our moral sensibility. What we believe is beautiful we will not wantonly destroy."

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Oprah Winfrey

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"Every time you state what you want or believe, you're the first to hear it. It's a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don't put a ceiling on yourself."

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Moliere

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"The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit."

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John Ruskin

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"In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it."

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Hope springs

Nguồn tin: nguontinviet.com



ANYWHERE else, the delivery of food, tents and blankets to victims of avalanches in a neighbouring country would be seen as a welcome but unremarkable humanitarian act. Not, given their history of poisonous bilateral relations, when Afghanistan is the recipient and the donor is Pakistan. The arrival of Pakistani help in the stricken Panjshir valley, where snowfalls have killed more than 280 people, is a sign of how markedly relations between the two countries have improved of late. Now Pakistan may be poised to help broker talks between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban who have long fought a bloody insurgency against it. Even an uncertain prospect of negotiations is significant.


Much credit for the improvement goes to Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president since September. In an early speech Mr Ghani declared Pakistan to be his priority and consigned India, once a tight ally of Afghanistan’s, to the outer rings of a “five circle” foreign policy. Whereas his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, made frequent forays to India, Mr Ghani has yet to visit. When he went to Pakistan in November, he broke protocol by calling on General Raheel Sharif, the army chief who, more than his (unrelated) namesake and prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, holds real power in Pakistan. That courtesy caused dismay among those back home for whom the Pakistani army is a source of all evil, most notably as the Taliban’s historical backer. “Nothing he has done has caused more dishonour to Afghanistan,” a former foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, fumes.


General Sharif has since made many reciprocal visits to Kabul. Mr Ghani has ordered his security forces to work with their Pakistani counterparts on managing a volatile border. He has also sent cadets to enroll in Pakistan’s military academy in Abbottabad, in contrast to Mr Karzai’s preference for training officers in India rather than in Pakistan. This counters Pakistani anxiety over the Afghan army’s future leaders being indoctrinated by a mortal enemy.


Perhaps most strikingly, Mr Ghani is diverting soldiers away from the fight against the Afghan Taliban—on March 3rd a suicide-bomber killed nine soldiers in Helmand province—to deal instead with Pakistan’s own version of the Taliban, Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose militants have taken refuge in Dangam in eastern Afghanistan. After TTP men in December attacked a school for army families in Peshawar in north-west Pakistan, killing 132 children, Mr Ghani’s is a notable gesture.


He now needs to win a big prize in return if he is not to be written off as a stooge of Pakistan. The Pakistani army must help lure the Afghan Taliban into early peace talks. Mid-ranking officers in the Pakistani army and its spy agencies have traditionally opposed that. In private they say that the Afghan Taliban poses no threat to Pakistan itself, while providing a useful channel for Pakistan to influence events over the border.


The good news is that General Sharif is clear-eyed about how negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban could help bring wider stability to the region. Pakistan has its own chronic problems with terrorists—the December massacre in Peshawar brought that painfully home.


The Pakistani authorities have influence over the Afghan Taliban, whose leaders enjoy broad protection in the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar and elsewhere. Many Taliban own property in Pakistan, and their children attend local schools. The Quetta Shura, their ruling council, remains intact. A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, believes that the Pakistanis are actively pushing the Afghan Taliban into negotiations. He judges that among the Taliban are “reasonable people” ready to be guided by instructions from their leader, Mullah Omar, should he sue for peace.


Back channels between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul, the Afghan capital, have long existed, yet previous hopes of talks have foundered. This time could be different. With American-led foreign troops withdrawing, it is harder for the Taliban to claim to be fighting a patriotic war against foreign occupiers (though Mr Ghani will be lobbying hard for more American troops to remain when he visits Washington later this month). And if, this year, Afghan security forces survive their first full fighting season without NATO firepower, it might disabuse those militants who believe that only American forces are denying them victory. Afghan security forces are losing more men in a year—4,350 in 2013, the latest year with full statistics—than all foreign troops killed since 2001. Yet the 169,000-strong army and the police are forces to be reckoned with. They should easily deny the Taliban their grandiose promise to capture the provinces of Helmand and Kunar this year.


Further, useful diplomacy is being brought to bear. China, Pakistan’s closest ally, has hosted Taliban delegations in Beijing in hopes of securing peace. China has mining interests in Afghanistan, and it is also increasingly concerned about Islamist militancy among its Uighur population. It is keen to see a more stable region. America, too, supports peace talks with the Taliban, having once opposed them.


Some Afghan politicians envisage two years of peace talks, with the Taliban then taking part in parliamentary elections. A national council, a loya jirga, is already planned, giving parliament more powers. Might the Taliban form part of it?


The problem is that Mr Ghani probably does not have two years. His standing at home is already weakened by the way he came to power in an election so tainted by fraud that supporters of his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, claimed that their candidate had been cheated. Although Mr Ghani struck a power-sharing deal with Mr Abdullah, antagonism between the two camps remains high, and there are problems in forming a government. That is all before taking into consideration how deeply unpopular in some quarters Mr Ghani’s policy of co-operating with Pakistan remains. Mr Karzai continues to snipe from his mini-palace a short distance from Mr Ghani’s office, warning that Afghanistan must not “be under Pakistan’s thumb”. If he is to survive in office, Mr Ghani needs early results to show for his endeavours to find peace.





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The Abbott effect

Nguồn tin: nguontinviet.com


Tony Abbott’s waking nightmare


JUST 18 months after Tony Abbott became Australia’s prime minister, pundits are writing his political obituary. A string of gaffes, disastrous polls and bitter divisions within his conservative Liberal Party sparked a motion last month to open his leadership to a party ballot. He survived, just. But the drama continues to feed a febrile mood in Canberra, the capital. On March 2nd an opinion poll gave Mr Abbott some breathing space. For how long is another matter.


The Ipsos poll showed the Liberals and their coalition partner, the National Party, trailing the opposition Labor Party by only two percentage points, after including second-preference votes. A month earlier the government had lagged by eight points. Mr Abbott’s personal approval rating edged up slightly, though only to a measly 32%. His allies jumped to defend him. Andrew Robb, the minister for trade and investment, says that in the poll the voters “have spoken” and that the push by colleagues to topple the prime minister is “dying”.


That may be optimistic. Asked who they would like to lead the Liberals, 39% of voters chose Malcolm Turnbull, the communications minister, and 24% chose Julie Bishop, the foreign minister. Just 19% plumped for Mr Abbott. Some pollsters read the rise in positive sentiment towards the government as a sign that some voters expect to see Mr Turnbull in charge before the next election, due in 2016.


Backed by the Liberals’ conservative wing, Mr Abbott unseated the centrist Mr Turnbull as party leader in 2009. In the latest jostling, Mr Turnbull has taken a steady approach that voters seem to prefer to Mr Abbott’s street-fighting style. A telling clash came over a recent report by Australia’s Human Rights Commission that criticised both Labor and coalition governments for locking child asylum-seekers in detention centres. Mr Abbott responded by attacking the commission’s boss, Gillian Triggs. Mr Turnbull defended Ms Triggs as a “very distinguished” legal scholar, adding that the main issue “is the children”.


Ordinary Australians have never really taken to Mr Abbott. But he also has problems in his cabinet. His colleagues resent the power wielded by his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. She happens to be married to the Liberal Party’s director, Brian Loughnane. A leaked memo from the party treasurer to Liberal party officials fretted about a potential conflict of interest. The press have made much of the leak as an apparent attempt to damage Mr Abbott. He dismissed it as a storm in a teacup.


After the respite produced by the latest poll, Mr Abbott issued a flurry of policy announcements. He pledged 300 more Australian troops for Iraq, on top of 170 special forces there now, to serve with about 100 New Zealand soldiers training the Iraqi army. A much-ballyhooed report was published about the pressure on budgets that can be expected from an ageing population over the next 40 years. And the prime minister finally dropped one of the most unpopular measures in his government’s first budget last year: a plan to charge those using public health insurance for visiting doctors.


Mr Robb says the Liberals will now give Mr Abbott “clear air” to carry on as leader until the next budget, due in May, “and beyond”. Other colleagues are less happy with that prospect, given that the first budget was bungled between Mr Abbott and his treasurer, Joe Hockey. Moreover, a state election is due on March 28th in New South Wales, Mr Abbott’s home state, which is currently governed by the Liberals. Recent defeats of one-term conservative state governments in Victoria and Queensland have rocked the Liberals. If Mike Baird, the popular state premier, does badly, the “Abbott effect” could take most of the blame.





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