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Ground depression in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City taking place at an alarming rate

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Unhealthy sleeping patterns can lead to major health problems like obesity, heart disease and others in adulthood, Wikimedia

Hanoi, April 18, 2017: Ground depression in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is taking place at an alarming rate, a research report said on Tuesday.

Many areas in the eight districts of the city, were sinking by five to 10 mm a year, Xinhua news agency quoted research results announced by the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology as reporting.

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After comparing statistics over 25 years, the city has so far sunken by some 0.4 metres, said Associate Professor Le Van Trung at the university.

If attention was not paid to the depression issue, the sinking areas would face drastic depression, and some areas might even be submerged in seawater, he warned.

Key reasons for the ground depression in Ho Chi Minh City include over-exploitation of underground water, rapid urbanization and effervescent transport activities.

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In low-lying zones, depression plus sea level rise (by an average of three mm a year due to climate change) will expand the existing inundated areas and create new ones.

In coastal areas, the over-exploitation of underground water causes saltwater intrusion which negatively affects growth of plants and trees in particular and sustainable agricultural development in general.

Parts of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam were also sinking, according to the Environment Ministry. (IANS)

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Top 5 Affordable Travel Destinations where Money will be the Last Thing on your Mind!

Indian currency seems weak when compared to international currencies. Hence, planning a trip to New York or California is not easy

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affordable travel destinations
Japan will have your heart at first sight! Pixabay

How many times has it happened that you longed for an exotic foreign trip, but gave up on the idea because of upsetting figures in your bank balance? Indian currency seems weak when compared to international currencies. Hence, planning a trip to New York or California is not easy; everybody knows these are expensive places and you will have to think twice before your NYC dreams come true.

But what if we tell you there are countries in the world that you can visit and gather equally thrilling and exotic experiences, at much lesser price?

Yes, there are countries that can be on your travel bucket list, where money will be the last thing you will worry about! These places are not only unique and undoubtedly beautiful, they are relatively cheap and our Indian currency will prove a stronger, higher currency when compared to their own currencies!

So, what are you waiting for? We bring you our top 5 picks for affordable travel destinations and you should get packing!

 1. SRI LANKA

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 2.37 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee)*

Sri Lanka is the first in our affordable travel destinations list!

affordable travel destinations
Sri Lankan beaches are a sight not to be missed. Pixabay

Despite being extremely small in size, Sri Lanka is a heavenly abode that makes it to the post of top five biodiversity hotspots in the world!

Dive in with the blue whales or watch spinner dolphins play against the setting sun! Go on a wildlife safari and spend days playing with elephants in the water.

affordable travel destinations
Elephant safari in Sri Lanka. Pixabay

Sri Lanka is a haven for back-packers, packed with Dutch architecture from the times of Sri Lanka colonialists, and exotic scenic locales, it is closer to home and yet, everything that any far-off international destination could possibly offer!

 

 2. JAPAN

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 1.70 JPY (Japanese Yen)*

Cute buildings, cute people, cute food, and cute everything else! Second on our list of affordable travel destinations is Japan.

Food is an integral part of Japan, and something that the Japanese wholly embrace as a prime part of life.

Japan’s history is intrinsically linked to the Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist faiths- the reason why a visit to Japan will be no less than a serene and tranquil experience.

affordable travel destinations
Japan will have your heart at first sight! Pixabay

Japan is categorically blessed with natural beauty with the country boasting of extremely rare and fascinating flora and fauna – experience the magnificence of Mt. Fuji in summer and spring, and visit the streets completely covered with cherry blossoms in March and April- Japan will present you with sights that will simply take your breath away!

 

 3. ICELAND

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 1.66 ISK (Icelandic Króna)*

Iceland convincingly makes it to the third spot on our affordable travel destinations list. Iceland is situated just below the Arctic Circle, which means the country has 24-hour daylight from mid-May to late July. Isn’t that already stimulating?

And who hasn’t heard of Iceland’s famous northern lights? The county is undoubtedly one of the world’s best places to witness the magic of the northern lights or aurora borealis. The best time to witness the magic of these celestial marvels from September to mid-April.

affordable travel destinations
The northern lights, do they even look real? Pixabay

Iceland’s rich water supply is undoubtedly its most valuable natural resource. Why are we telling you about this? Iceland has natural pools that can be found all around the country, calmly seated in natural environment.

affordable travel destinations
Iceland has natural pools that make for magnificent sights! Pixabay

Fun fact : People of Iceland do not have surnames. They follow the traditional Nordic naming system in which a person’s name includes their father’s first name.

 

 4. HUNGARY

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 4.00 HUF (Hungarian Forint)*

From its cosmopolitan cities to the charming countryside, Hungary will provide you with innumerable reasons to make a stop here. Nonetheless, it is going to be a decision you will not regret. From mouth-watering food to traditional folk culture, Hungary offers something for everybody, which is what brings the country on the fourth spot in our affordable travel destinations list.

Hungary’s countryside is filled with naturally magnificent sights- from natural landscapes in the Hortobagy National Park, to extravagant caves of Lillafured, your Hungarian vacation will be both peaceful and beautiful!

affordable travel destinations
Szechenyi Chain Bridge. Pixabay

Hungary will be the best option if you’re looking for an affordable vacation – with affordable food, drink, and many of the country’s attractions being totally free to visit such as the Chain Bridge)

 

5. VIETNAM

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 353.78 VND (Vietnamese Dong)*

The last on the list of affordable travel destinations is Vietnam. With its fascinating history, succulent food, gorgeous beaches, old towns, islands and waters, Vietnam should definitely be on everybody’s bucket list.

affordable travel destinations
Sunrise at Vietnam is to die for! Pixabay

Street food is a trademark of Vietnam and you will find countless food stalls on street sides throughout your trip that you can gorge on! Vietnam will also not disappoint mountaineers, or adventure seekers- you can either rent a motorbike and drive to the scenic mountains in the north or along the length of the country from north to south – but beware, this thrilling ride is not for the faint-hearted.

Don’t forget to share with us if you do plan a trip to any of these places!

* Conversion rates are subject to change. 

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India is The Most Corrupt Nation in Asia with Highest Bribery Rates of 69 %

More than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services in India

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India is the most corrupt nation
India Against Corruption - Protesters in Bangalore - 22nd August 2011. Wikimedia
  • India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list
  • Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate
  • India also holds account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively

Sep 03, 2017: Indian government is struggling hard to defeat the evils of corruption, but there is still a long way ahead to fulfill the objective of corruption free India. According to a survey released by the Transparency International (TI) in March 2017,  an anti-corruption global civil society organization reveals that India stands as the most corrupt country in Asia with 69 % bribery rate. In the survey, approximately 22,000 individuals spanning across 16 Asian countries participated over a period of 18 months starting in July 2015.

As reported by ANI which further cited Forbes’ article “Asia’s Five Most Corrupt Countries”, the issue of corruption is pervasive across Asia. The TI report says that India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list.

It was mentioned that more than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services namely-  hospitals, schools, police, utility services and, ID documents.

The article by Forbes also hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for persistent efforts to eradicate corruption from India.

Also Read: Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption 

“However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fight against corruption has made a mark: 53 per cent of the people think he is going it fairly or very well. And it has led to people feeling empowered, as 63 per cent believe ordinary citizens can make a difference,” it stated.

Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate.

Pakistan stands fourth on the list with 40 per cent bribery rate. About three-fourths of respondents in Pakistan consider mostly the policemen to be corrupt. It said that seven in ten people had to cajole police officers or the courts for a bribe. When asked about the change in the situation, people sounded dejected when it comes to wiping out bribery from the nation. Only one third feel that ordinary citizens can make a difference.

Last year, India was placed 76th out of 168 countries surveyed by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog in its Corruption Perception Index, mentioned ANI.

India’s corruption perception has been the same consecutively for two years 2015 and 2014’s  as 38/100, which shows no improvement in the scenario.

According to the March 2017 statistics, Pakistan most likely of all was the country to have higher bribes legal institutions. While in India, the police bribery rate was 54 per cent.

India also holds an account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively.


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)