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Paris attacks reshape US debate on immigration, security

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers called on Tuesday for even tighter scrutiny of Syrian refugees fleeing to the United States as last week’s deadly Paris attacks recast America’s debate over immigration and national security, prompting a sharp rebuke from president Barack Obama, who said attempts to block entry were “offensive and contrary to American values”.

Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives, worried about Islamist attacks following Friday’s killings of 129 people in France, threatened to suspend the Obama administration’s efforts to allow 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the country.

Democrats also called for close vetting of refugees from the four-year-old civil war in Syria in case they are linked to extremist groups such as Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris killings.

The attacks focused the spotlight in Washington on national security with the November 2016 presidential election campaign heating up and Obama in the final year of his presidency.

“This is a moment where it is better to be safe than sorry,” the Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

Separately, two influential senators, Republican Jeff Flake and Democrat Tim Kaine, responded to the Paris attacks by renewing their push for Congress to vote on a formal authorization for the use of military force for the campaign against Islamic State.

But most of the emphasis in the Republican-controlled Congress has been on the backlash against Syrian refugees.

Ryan called for a pause in Obama’s program, announced in September, to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in a year. The number of Syrians destined for the United States is low compared with figures in European countries such as Germany.

The issue has challenged America’s image of itself as a nation that welcomes downtrodden newcomers, with some lawmakers suggesting all Syrians should be barred, or that Christian Syrians should be favored over Muslims.

Obama, speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila early on Wednesday, accused politicians at home of trying to score political points.

“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks,” he said, occasionally showing flashes of anger.

“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric thats been coming out of here during the course of this debate,” he said, referring to another name for Islamic State.

Obama said refugees are screened for 18 to 24 months before being cleared to enter the United States, with the intelligence community fully vetting applicants.

“When candidates say we should not admit 3-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing. When individuals say we should have religious tests, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be allowed, that’s offensive and contrary to American values.”

Republican Senator John McCain backed scrupulous vetting but also strongly opposed discrimination.

“All of us are God’s children … so I disagree with that assumption that only Christian children should be able to come to the United States,” he told Reuters.

Republicans and Democrats have both voiced fears that housing refugees from a conflict zone in the Middle East could leave the country open to attacks like those staged by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001.

Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington should look at the strongest possible vetting process to ensure “terrorists cannot get into the United States through our refugee program.”

The current U.S. screening process takes 18 to 24 months and is tighter than that in Europe, he said.

Other Western countries have begun to question their willingness to admit Syrians after reports that at least one of the Paris attackers passed through Greece in October.

The White House National Security Council said it was continuing to look for ways to tighten screening.

Senior Obama administration officials including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson held a classified briefing on Tuesday evening for all 435 members of the House about the aftermath of the Paris attacks. But many Republicans remained deeply concerned.

“I have great concerns about allowing people on our shores without knowing that we’re able to find out information about them,” said Republican Representative Matt Salmon. “I’m leaving this briefing far less comfortable than when I came in.”

Immigration fights

US politicians have debated for years over immigration, most recently about Latin Americans who entered the country illegally.

Conservative Republicans in the 2016 White House race are offering competing plans to limit illegal immigration. Republican presidential campaign front-runner Donald Trump has threatened to deport the 11 million already in the United States.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush broke with rivals by saying he would support the entry of some Syrian refugees but stressed that screening must be tough enough to bar militants.

Worrying refugee advocates, at least 26 mostly Republican governors say they are concerned about people resettling in their states after fleeing Syria’s four-year-old civil war, saying some could be associated with Islamic State. Other governors, mostly Democrats, have said Syrians are welcome.

Obama administration officials held a conference call on Tuesday with 34 U.S. governors to discuss the country’s refugee program, the White House said in a statement.

The administration officials, led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, assured the governors that the refugees would undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States, the statement said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that of 785,000 refugees accepted since 2001, only 12 “were found to perhaps be problematic with respect to potential terror.”

But he told NBC that while screening is effective it will have to be increased and “will probably go slower and cost more money.”

Ryan did not offer details about proposed legislation to pause Obama’s refugee plan, but said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he would bring it to the House floor on Thursday.

He said he had spoken to the White House, congressional Democrats and senators about the bill.

Several other Republicans are pushing to include a provision to block the resettlement of Syrians in a trillion-dollar budget bill that must be passed, and signed into law by Obama, by Dec. 11.

Others have proposed measures setting strict conditions on admitting Syrians, such as requiring the FBI director to certify that refugees’ background checks have been completed, and an audit of the vetting process.

The Senate, where Republicans hold a smaller majority than in the House, would also have to approve any legislation before it could take effect. Rhetoric there has been less heated than in the House.

A plan by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year ran into trouble on Monday as some local leaders said the timeline is too short.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal ends bid for Republican nomination

BATON ROUGE (Louisiana): Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal dropped out of the 2016 race for president Tuesday, ending a campaign that failed to gain much support, especially in early-voting Iowa.

The 44-year-old governor said he wasn’t ready to endorse another candidate, but intended to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee.

“I’ve come to the realization that this is not my time,” Jindal said on Fox News Channel as he announced the decision to suspend his campaign.

Term-limited and out of office in January, Jindal said he will work with a think tank he started a few years ago, called America Next, to devise what he called “a blueprint for making this the American century.”

“Going forward, I believe we have to be the party of growth and we can never stop being the party that believes in opportunity. We cannot settle for the left’s view of envy and division,” Jindal said in a statement.

The nation’s first elected Indian-American governor, Jindal focused his entire campaign effort on the early voting state of Iowa, first courting evangelical voters and then trying to broaden his appeal as a candidate with conservative policy plans that others weren’t offering.

But he never won much support in Iowa or elsewhere against higher-profile Republican candidates such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Jindal’s low poll numbers kept him off the main debate stages where he could have drawn more attention, and his fundraising lagged. He was facing a major cash crunch to keep the campaign going, after wrapping up the last fundraising period with $ 261,000 on hand.

He also was saddled with low approval ratings and criticism about his governing back in Louisiana, which followed him as he campaigned for the White House.

Jindal’s advisers blamed finances as well as the debate criteria that locked him out of the prime-time events for the governor’s decision to exit the competition.

“He’s been thinking about it for a few weeks,” said campaign strategist Curt Anderson. “It’s not easy. He’s a fighter and his instinct is to never give up, but also you have to be realistic in politics.”

Tens of thousands without power as storm batters Ireland

DUBLIN: Tens of thousands of homes in Ireland were left without electricity on Tuesday as a storm swept across the country, causing disruption to flights and ferry crossings.

Winds during the storm, named “Barney” by meteorological authorities, damaged electricity cables knocking out power to over 45,000 homes at one point before engineers began to restore power.

Ireland’s national meteorological service Met Eireann had issued an orange weather warning, the second-highest level, for most of Tuesday, warning of winds of up to 130km/hr.

Meteorologists have also warned that the storm could fell trees and cause power cuts and flooding as it moves across Britain this week.

“Currently 25,000 customers remain without power,” said Bernadine Maloney of the Electricity Supply Board in an update at 2030 GMT, adding that the worst-affected areas were in the south and midlands.

“We’ve had a number of large trees fall on the network and restoration will be slow.”

Irish police said a tree fell on a bus and car and other pictures shared on social media showed felled trees and debris on roads in different parts of the country.

Flights to Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports have all been affected by a number of cancellations, delays and diversions.

A number of ferries to and from Wales across the Irish Sea were also cancelled because of the conditions.

Paris attackers rented two hotel rooms on eve of assault

ALFORTVILLE, FRANCE: A credit card belonging to a suspect hunted by police for his role in the Paris attacks was used to rent two rooms in a hotel on the eve of the bloody assault, police sources said on Tuesday.

Salah Abdeslam, 26, is thought to have fled the scene after seven other attackers blew themselves up or were shot dead by police after killing 129 people.

“Two rooms were rented from November 12 for one week in an apartment hotel in Alfortville,” a suburb southeast of Paris, police sources said.

Police were still trying to determine who stayed in the rooms.

READ ALSO:
Paris attacks: ‘Mastermind’ of attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud turned back on ‘fantastic’ life, says father

“I heard police smash open the doors on Saturday night,” said a women staying in the rooms next to those that were rented out, speaking on condition of anonymity.

She recalled seeing two men but said she did not recognise them when shown photos by police.

On Sunday, police raided another apartment in the gritty suburb of Bobigny which was rented on November 10 by Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, who blew himself up in front of a bar.

Blog: What we can learn from Paris

Investigators have identified five of the attackers involved in the attacks on the Stade de France, a rock concert, bars and restaurants, leaving 129 dead and 352 injured.

Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device.

Blast at market in northeastern Nigeria's Yola kills 32

YOLA (NIGERIA): A blast struck a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola on Tuesday evening, killing 32 people and wounding 80 others, both the Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.

The explosion occurred at a fruit and vegetable market beside a main road in the Jimeta area of Adamawa’s state capital around 8pm (1900 GMT).

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast bore the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram which has killed thousands over the last six years in its bid to create a state adhering to strict Sharia law in the northeast.

READ ALSO: 15 killed, 41 hurt in blasts near Nigerian capital: Officials

“Thirty-two people were killed and 80 have been injured,” said a Red Cross official who asked not to be named. NEMA regional spokesman Alhaji Sa’ad Bello later gave the same casualty figures.

Suspected Boko Haram militants have carried out attacks in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in recent weeks but have not struck northeastern Nigeria since late October when bombings in Yola and Maiduguri left at least 37 people dead.

“The ground near my shop was covered with dead bodies. I helped to load 32 dead bodies into five vehicles,” said witness Alhaji Ahmed, who owns a shop in the market.

READ ALSO: Blast kills around 50 in Nigeria’s Borno state: Military

A Reuters witness said he saw eight ambulances being used to carry casualties away for treatment.

Suspected members of Boko Haram have killed around 1,000 people since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May, vowing to crush the militant group.

Since losing most of the territory they took over earlier this year to the Nigerian army, the militants have focused attacks on markets, bus stations and places of worship, as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages.

German stadium evacuated for 'security reasons'

TNN | Nov 18, 2015, 12.19 AM IST

Germany-Netherlands football match called off for 'security reasons': Police. (AFP photo)Germany-Netherlands football match called off for ‘security reasons’: Police. (AFP photo)

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Netherlands-Germany soccer game cancelled due to 'concrete threat'

HANOVER, GERMANY: A friendly soccer game between hosts Germany and Netherlands in Hanover was called off less than two hours before its start on Tuesday for fear of a bomb attack, German police said.

Hanover Police president Volker Kluwe told state broadcaster ARD that authorities had taken seriously indications of a planned attack with explosives. He did not elaborate.

“The visitors (spectators), who were already in the stadium at that time, were asked to leave the stadium without panicking,” police said in a brief statement.

After Friday’s attacks in Paris, security measures in Hanover had been tight. German chancellor Angela Merkel was set to attend with vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and government ministers, in a show of solidarity with France.

“We were re-routed on our way to the stadium and are now in a safe area,” German team spokesman Jens Grittner said on Twitter. “We cannot say more at this moment.”

Two Dutch government ministers attending the match – defence minister Jeanine Hennes and health and sport minister Edith Schippers — were returning home.

The world champions had not initially wanted the game to go ahead after having played against France in Paris on Friday as a wave of attacks hit the city, killing 129 people.

The contingent of 80 Germans, including players, coaches and staff, then spent the night holed up in the changing rooms of the Stade de France stadium as the attacks took place across the capital, before heading for the airport on Saturday morning.

But the players, coaches as well as the national football association then decided to go ahead with the game to show unity.

Paris attacker may have had accomplice on journey through Balkans

One of the Paris suicide attackers may have had an accomplice with him as he traveled through the Balkans to western Europe after entering Greece posing as a Syrian refugee, counter-intelligence and police sources say.

The assailant may also have reached Paris faster and more easily than expected because asylum seekers were rushed across some national borders at the height of the migration crisis in Europe this year to avoid bottlenecks after Hungary closed its borders, ironically to keep out suspected militants.

The man, who blew himself up near the Stade de France stadium in Friday’s attacks that killed 129 people, has been identified from a Syrian passport found near his body as 25-year-old Ahmad al-Mohammad for the northwestern city of Idlib.

The passport could be false or stolen but its holder was registered as arriving alongside 198 refugees by boat from Turkey on October 3 in Leros, a small picturesque Greek island.

READ ALSO:
Paris attacker linked to Belgian IS cell: Report

French authorities have said the fingerprints of the attacker who blew himself up matched those of the man who landed on Leros.

Greek officials said on Sunday that Mohammad seemed not to be traveling with anyone specific, despite arriving with others. But a counter-intelligence source in Macedonia, one of the countries he passed through, spoke of a “massive investigation in the Balkans about the route of two of the terrorists”.

The source, who declined to be named, indicated to Reuters that Macedonia was coordinating its action with Greece, and that a companion was with Mohammad by the time they bought ferry tickets taking them to Piraeus on the Greek mainland.

“On October 4, one after the other, they bought ferry tickets for 51.50 euros ($ 54.90) and they arrived in Piraeus at 23:10 on October 5 on the Diagoras ferry,” the source said.

The owner of the Kastis travel agency in Leros, 42-year-old Dimitris Kastis, remembers selling tickets to Mohammad and a man who was with him.

“He didn’t do or say anything that caught my attention,” Kastis said, adding that both men had paid in cash. He said the man traveling with him had a similar surname.

Greek media have published a photograph of the second man’s ticket which gives his family name as al-Mahmod, and the initial of his given name as M.

Kastis said he recognized this as the name the second man provided when purchasing the ticket.

A Croatian police official, who declined to be named, also told Reuters that an investigation was under way into Mohammed’s journey which was focusing on whether he was traveling with anyone and, if so, with whom.

READ ALSO:
Paris attacks: ‘Mastermind’ of attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud turned back on ‘fantastic’ life, says father

Balkan route

In Leros, Mohammad was registered as required under European Union rules, with his fingerprints recorded in a European database known as Eurodac. Because his passport looked authentic and there was no police record on him, he was given a permit allowing him to stay in Greece for six months.

A copy of Mohammad’s permit was distributed to journalists by Immigration Minister Yannis Mouzalas. Written in Greek only, it states that its holder should not leave the city of Corinth for the whole period without alerting police.

But within days, Mohammad had gone at least as far as Croatia.

The counter-intelligence source in Macedonia said Mohammad was still traveling with a companion two days after reaching Piraeus. They registered together at a refugee camp in the backyard of an old tobacco plant in the Serbian town of Presevo, though Serbian officials have not mentioned an accomplice.

Mohammad then went on to Croatia, either by train or bus, and was registered on October 8 at the Opatovac refugee camp.

Reuters has been unable to determine what route Mohammad took after this, or whether he was accompanied by anyone.

Croatian police said he almost certainly left for Hungary within 24 hours, though Budapest has no record of him entering from Croatia, which at the time was offloading thousands of migrants every day across its northern border with Hungary.

Mohammad’s most likely destination from Hungary would have been Austria. In early October migrants were being sent in trains with locked doors to Hegyeshalom on the Austrian border, where Reuters journalists said they were ushered into the country without having their documents checked.

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said it was “conjecture and speculation” that a man going by the name of al-Mohammad had passed through Austria which, like France, is part of the EU’s Schengen zone where routine internal border controls have been removed.

But Vienna has confirmed that another of the attackers, Belgian-born Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, entered Austria from Germany on September 9.

Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told reporters on Tuesday that Budapest had no information as to whether Mohammad traversed Hungary. At that time Hungary was not registering migrants because Croatia had already done so.

Both countries are EU members but, unlike Croatia, Hungary is in the Schengen zone and had sealed its frontier with Serbia to migrants on September 15.

This forced the migrants into Croatia, which infuriated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban by busing them north across its own border with Hungary, in many cases without checks.

Orban’s tough stance

The irony of an Islamist militant moving quickly through the Balkans into western Europe and the heart of the 28-nation EU will not be lost on Hungary, where Orban based his tough stance on the flow of migrants on concerns that many were immigrants rather than refugees fleeing poverty or war, and that some could be “terrorists”.

The issue is also sensitive in Germany, where chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticized for her welcoming policy on refugees.

And some far-right and populist leaders have seized on the possibility that any of the eight Paris attackers reached Western Europe by posing as a migrant, using it to step up their anti-immigration message.

Any security lapses are also a potential embarrassment for the countries Mohammad passed through, but authorities say the influx of migrants in recent months has made it almost impossible for them to keep out would-be attackers.

“We take fingerprints, but how do we check them? Against which database? If there’s nothing on that person in the information we received or if he’s not wanted by Interpol he can go … He could be a shaven Osama Bin Laden for all we know,” said a senior Serbian law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Passenger restrained on London-Boston flight

AP | Nov 18, 2015, 12.28 AM IST

Representative image.Representative image.
BOSTON: Massachusetts State Police said a passenger on a London-to-Boston British Airways flight has been restrained as she tried to enter the cockpit.

British Airways told state police that the woman tried to enter the cockpit on Tuesday on Flight 213. The flight landed about a half-hour ahead of schedule at Boston’s Logan International Airport at 1:30pm. A spokesman for state police said troopers were getting ready to board the plane to take the passenger into custody.

No other details were immediately available.

In a statement, British Airways called the passenger “unruly” and said the flight crew asked the police to meet in Boston. The airline said it does not tolerate abusive behaviour, but it didn’t elaborate.

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Use Yoga to Ease Symptoms Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Use Yoga to Ease Symptoms Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Yoga

Is arthritis pain getting you down? If you are one of the millions of people who experience arthritis pain daily, then its time to find relief. Fortunately. There is a whole host of natural options for managing your pain. One such option is yoga.

Yoga is a gentle exercise that can do wonders for both mind and body. It can help with health conditions ranging from pregnancy anxiety to chronic fatigue syndrome. And if you want to learn about activities that have been shown to ease symptoms of arthritis, yoga is an excellent option.

Yoga Reduces Arthritis Pain

The Journal of Rheumatology published a study in July 2015 that looked at the effects of yoga in a group of 75 adults with rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis.[1] Half of the group did eight weeks of yoga (two 60 min classes and one home practice session per week) and half continued regular treatment, serving as controls.

After eight weeks, people in the yoga group showed a 20 percent improvement over the control group on a test that assessed health related quality of life. The test reflected things like physical function, pain, and energy levels, showing that yoga improved these factors. Walking speed was also higher in the yoga group.

It wasn’t just their physical symptoms that got better with yoga. Improvements in mood and mental health were also seen; people who did yoga had significantly higher scores for positive affect and had lower depressive symptoms compared to controls.

Yoga was a safe treatment tool, leading to no unpleasant side effects or adverse events.

Yoga leads to Long-Lasting Improvements

The researchers did follow-up testing nine months later, and participants who were in the yoga group still showed significant improvements in most of the measures of health related quality of life.

Five years later, some of the participants were contacted for a focus group. According to the researchers, people said, “yoga had played a pivotal role in changing how they viewed their function, and capabilities and attitude toward living with [rheumatoid arthritis]; they credited yoga with helping them maintain a more active lifestyle.”[1]

Gentle Exercise Is Helpful for Arthritis

While doing yoga or other exercises may seem daunting at first in the face of arthritis pain, you may benefit tremendously if you try. You may experience improved daily functioning, better mood, increased strength, and more energy if you exercise regularly. Read all about how exercise can help rheumatoid arthritis here.

Find a local yoga class near you to get started. Start with a beginner’s class, which will be gentle and will help you to build up your strength, flexibility, and balance. Classes can be found at local community centers, gyms, and private yoga studios. Inquire about the different class styles and levels for helping choosing which class, in particular, might be good for someone with arthritis pain. The website www.Arthritis.Yoga is a good place to start, and the company, in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation, made an arthritis-friendly DVD complete with an hour-long yoga practice and a FAQ section.

Other Natural Options for Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis shouldn’t leave you in pain and feeling miserable. If you don’t yet have your symptoms under control, start today with safe, effective, all-natural remedies.

Read this series on the best supplements for joint pain for a list of herbs, vitamins, and other supplements to help you find relief.

By starting an exercise program, such as a yoga practice, and combining this with supplements like SAM-e or boswellia extract, you may be able to gain control over your symptoms and start feeling better.

As always, check with your doctor before taking any supplements or vitamins to inquire about possible medication interactions.

Photo by by Alfred Ellison Gregg IV.

References

[1] J Rheumatol. 2015 Jul;42(7):1194-202.

Natural Heath Advisory Institute contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of Chelsea’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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