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UNITED NATIONS, April 14, 2017: The United Nations Security Council took action Thursday to begin shutting down its 13-year-old peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
The current 5,000-strong mission will begin drawing down its troops and transition in mid-October to a smaller force of just over 1,200 police personnel. It will focus on the rule of law, building Haitian police capacities and monitoring human rights.
“As the stabilization mission in Haiti draws down and the new mission gears up, the Haitian people will be set on the path of independence and self-sufficiency,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told council members.
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The council said in its unanimously agreed resolution that the transition recognizes “the major milestone towards stabilization achieved” with the peaceful transfer of power in elections held in February.
“This new stage does not mean that it is the end of the commitment to Haiti,” said France’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Alexis Lamek. “It shows quite the contrary, that we can develop, change and adapt our activity to the situation on the field, while guided by the need to meet the aspirations of the people.”
The U.N. stabilization mission, known as MINUSTAH, was deployed to Haiti in June 2004. It succeeded a Multinational Interim Force authorized by the Security Council in February 2004 after then-Haitian President Bertrand Aristide departed the country for exile following violence that spread to several cities across the nation.
By 2010, the country was regaining stability when it was rocked by a massive earthquake. More than 220,000 people were killed. Among the dead were 102 U.N. personnel, including the head of the MINUSTAH mission and his deputy.
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In response to the needs following the earthquake, the Security Council added 3,500 more troops and police to support recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts.
In 2016, Haiti again faced another natural catastrophe when Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern part of the Caribbean nation and killed hundreds.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the country suffered a cholera epidemic. U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were blamed for bringing the disease into the country. Haiti’s Artibonite River was infected with cholera through human waste believed to be from the peacekeepers’ camp. The river is the main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians.
Subsequently, more than 8,500 people died of the water-borne disease, which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, and hundreds of thousands more were sickened.
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Last year, the United Nations acknowledged it played a role in the epidemic and said it would set up a trust fund for victims. It has appealed to member states for $400 million to fight the disease and support those most directly affected by it. The trust fund, however, is severely underfunded, with only $2.6 million of the $400 million requested having been received.
Sexual abuse and exploitation
U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti have also come under criticism for the rape and exploitation of children and women they were sent to protect.
In 2012, three Pakistani peacekeepers were sent home after the rape of a Haitian boy at their base. Only one peacekeeper reportedly served a brief jail sentence in Pakistan.
This week, the Associated Press reported that at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers repeatedly sexually abused nine Haitian children as part of a sex ring from 2004 to 2007. None of the peacekeepers has been jailed for the alleged crimes.
Peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria and Uruguay have also faced allegations in Haiti.
The Haitian cases are part of a wider problem in U.N. peacekeeping of sexual exploitation and abuse that the organization has been trying to stem for years. Despite a “zero tolerance” policy and the repatriation of offenders, the inability to stop often poorly trained and ill-disciplined troops from abusing civilians has been a major stain on the U.N.’s credibility and reputation.
The United States, which pays nearly a third of the annual peacekeeping budget of almost $8 billion, has demanded that the abuses stop.
“These peacekeepers are sent into vulnerable communities to protect the innocent, not to exploit or rape them,” Ambassador Haley told council members. “Countries that refuse to hold their soldiers accountable must recognize that this either stops, or their troops will go home and the financial compensation will end.” (VOA)
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath