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Son of late John Lennon, Julian Honors Mom and the Environment in a picture Children’s Book “Touch the Earth”

The firstborn son of the late John Lennon has co-authored "Touch the Earth,'' a picture book for kids as young as 3 about the world's water problems

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Songwriter, photographer and philanthropist Julian Lennon participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his new children's picture book "Touch the Earth" at AOL Studios, April 13, 2017, in New York, VOA
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New York, April 15, 2017: Julian Lennon is looking to nurture a new generation’s commitment to the environment, with a little help from a white feather.

The firstborn son of the late John Lennon has co-authored “Touch the Earth,” a picture book for kids as young as 3 about the world’s water problems, from polluted oceans to the need for clean drinking water in the developing world.

Out later this month, the book from Sky Pony Press has a group of kids loaded into a plane called the White Feather Flier as they span the globe and learn about the need for filtration, irrigation and ocean life protection. With illustrations created both by hand and computer, it’s the first of three children’s books he plans, in line with the environmental and humanitarian work of his White Feather Foundation.

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“We’ve failed miserably in looking after our environment. I think this is a great way to approach children into realizing what’s at stake, and to help educate and help them make decisions about the right things to do for the future,” Lennon said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “It’s for those with inquiring minds who are asking why?”

Lennon has taken on environmental issues in song, including his 1991 “Saltwater,” and in film, including the 2006 documentary “Whaledreamers,” covering a gathering of indigenous and tribal leaders that explores connections among whales, dolphins and humanity.

Appealing to the next generation of prospective eco-warriors grew out of his friendship with co-writer Bart Davis after the two put aside plans — for now — for the 54-year-old Lennon to write a biography. But he hasn’t completely abandoned the idea.

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“I feel time’s marching on, you know. A lot of my friends and people I know are popping their clogs,” Lennon laughed. “You know, who knows what’s next. It’s in the cards in the next few years, absolutely, before it’s too late.”

So what’s up with the white feather for Lennon, the former Beatle’s son with his first wife, Cynthia? He shares the story at the back of the book.

“On the odd occasion when I saw dad he mentioned once that should he ever pass, a way he would let me know that he was OK, or that we were all going to be OK, would be in the form of a white feather,” Lennon explained. “I thought that quite peculiar. I told mum about it, too, and we just sort of went on with life.”

Later, while on tour in Australia, he was presented with a white swan feather by an aboriginal tribal elder of the Mirning people.

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“It was a freaky moment, but one I took to heart immediately,” he said. “I realized that this was about stepping up to the plate now and, you know, I can sing all I want about this stuff but am I actually going to do something about it? So I spent 10 years making a documentary about the Mirning people.”

It’s also when he established his foundation, visiting Ethiopia with the head of a clean water initiative and touring schools and health clinics in Kenya. A portion of the books’ proceeds will go the foundation, which now does a range of work, including providing scholarships for girls in Kenya.

Lennon’s father was shot to death in 1980. His mother died two years ago of cancer at age 75. Her loss remains tender. Lennon dedicates the book to Cynthia, and he established the Kenya scholarships in her name.

“I talk to her every night, pretty much,” Lennon said. “She has given me the strength to carry on. Where I’m at at the moment, I feel very strong, very zenlike. I just want to do the right thing. To try to continue to be the best that I can be. That was all based around wanting to make her proud. I try to continue all the work that I do in her name.”
-VOA

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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.

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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)