* Foreign

Allies in GOP say the decision would help Russia and Iran, lead to revival of IS

Looming tension: A fighter from Turkish-backed forces during a military drill in Azaz, Syria. APSTR

In the midst of an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that has polarised along party lines, lawmakers from both parties found themselves — unusually — on the same side with regard to the President’s decision to pull troops out of “northern Syria”.

“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump loyalist, said in a statement released on Monday.

The White House announced via email on Sunday night that the U.S. was withdrawing troops from “northern Syria” and that Turkey was going to go ahead with a “long-planned operation” in the region. The decision was made following a call on Sunday between Mr. Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by Kurds, has been leading the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish groups as terrorists, setting up the possibility that Turkey would attack the Kurds following U.S. troop withdrawal. An August agreement between the U.S. and Turkey set up joint patrols in the “safe zone” at the Syria-Turkey border . The patrols had separated Kurdish and Turkish troops.

U.S. Defence Department officials were “blindsided” by the President’s decision, The Washington Post reported. “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the President — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said.

On Monday, President Trump appeared to qualify Sunday night’s troop announcement saying it did not give Turkey carte blanche to do anything in Syria. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey…,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday.

‘Not our friend’

The critics of Mr Trump’s decision included the U.S.’s former U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, one of the few former administration officials who had parted with the President on good terms when she stepped down last October.

“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend,” Ms Haley said via Twitter on Monday.

GOP senator Lindsay Graham, who is a strong Trump ally, called the decision “short-sighted and irresponsible” and said Congress would introduce bipartisan sanctions on Turkey and suspend the country from NATO, if Turkey were to invade Syria.

“But this impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos,” Mr. Graham told the TV show, “Fox and Friends”, on Monday

Comparing the move to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s rationale for pulling troops out of Iraq, Mr. Graham said the pullout would lead to the IS’s re-emergence. He also said that while the [so-called] Caliphate was destroyed, the “biggest lie” the administration was telling was that the IS is defeated.

Officials say the action not tied to upcoming trade talks

The list covers 8 Chinese companies and 20 public security bureaus.APRoss D. Franklin

The U.S. government widened its trade blacklist to include some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups, punishing Beijing for its treatment of Muslim minorities and ratcheting up tensions ahead of high-level trade talks in Washington this week.

The decision, which drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, targets 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd.

The action bars the firms from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval — a potentially crippling move for some of them. It follows the same blueprint used by Washington in its attempt to limit the influence of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd for what it says are national security reasons.

U.S. officials said the action was not tied to this week’s resumption of trade talks with China, but it signals no let-up in U.S. President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance as the world’s two biggest economies seek to end their 15-month trade war.

The Commerce Department said in a filing the “entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

“The U.S. Government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

‘Stop interfering’

China said the U.S. should stop interfering in its affairs. It will continue to take firm and resolute measures to protect its sovereign security, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular media briefing without elaborating.

Hikvision, with a market value of about $42 billion, calls itself the world’s largest maker of video surveillance gear.

The other companies on the list are speech recognition firm iFlytek Co, surveillance equipment maker Zhejiang Dahua Technology, data recovery firm Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co, facial recognition firm Yitu Technology and Yixin Science and Technology Co.

35 candidates in the fray; presidential election cost may rise from $22 mn to $28 mn

SLPP’s candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, left, with his brother, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Colombo.REUTERSDINUKA LIYANAWATTE

Sri Lanka will have its longest ever ballot paper in the November presidential election, the Election Commissioner said on Tuesday, after as many as 35 candidates filed nominations for the contest, said to be a record number of candidates.

The Commission will incur additional costs on the long ballot paper, pushing the cost of the election from the initially estimated $22 million to $28 million, officials told the media on Tuesday. The ballot paper will have symbols of all the candidates listed on it, with the party or alliance they represent, and voters are entitled to mark up to three preferences for President. “They don’t have to necessarily mark three preferences, but they could if they wish to,” an official told The Hindu.

The Election Commission is preparing material and films to educate voters on exercising the preferential voting option. Awareness films will soon be telecast on local television, according to officials of the Commission.

Prominent among the candidates who filed nominations on Monday are the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a powerful ex-Defence Secretary and the brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the ruling United National Party’s deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, who are the two main contestants in this poll.

The leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake and former Army commander Mahesh Senanayake are also in the fray, which includes only one woman candidate, scientist Ajantha Perera, and two Buddhist monks.

Additionally, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)’s M. K. Sivajilingam and former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M. Hisbullah filed nominations as independents.

Weekend unrest after mask ban brought the city to a halt

Carrie Lam Vincent Yu

’s leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday said China intervening to end months of pro-democracy protests is an option following a particularly violent week of unrest that paralysed the city.

The financial hub has been gripped by four months of rallies, and last weekend saw much of the city grind to a halt as masked demonstrators took to the streets in defiance of a controversial ban on face coverings.

Ms. Lam’s decision last Friday to invoke colonial-era emergency powers — not used for half a century — to impose the ban sparked some of the most violent scenes since the crisis began, as protesters trashed subway stations, vandalised shops and blocked roads.

Ms. Lam told reporters that while she believes the city’s authorities can cope with unprecedented troubles, China could be called upon if the situation becomes “so bad”.

“At this point in time, I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. It is also the position of the central government (in Beijing) that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own... But if the situation becomes so bad, then no options can be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance.”

Kamban in his Ramayana elaborates on the Narasimha avatara, something Valmiki did not do. When Hiranyakasipu asks Prahlada where Hari resides, Prahlada answers him. This answer that Kamban gives through Prahlada’s words is full of meaning, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse. Prahlada says, “If you split an atom into a hundred pieces, then He is in each of them. He is Mount Meru. He is in this pillar. He is in your words too.”

There are many verses in the Divya Prabandham describing the Narasimha avatara. In one verse, Periyazhvar uses words that yield significant meanings. While talking of the pillar which Hiranyakasipu struck, and from which Narasimha emerged, Periyazhvar says, “aLanditta thUN”. He is indicating that this pillar (thUN) was measured by Hiranyakasipu. Many were Hiranyakasipu’s conquests, and this was his pillar of victory. He had proudly supervised its construction. He had ensured that it was huge, matching his huge size. Had the Lord come out of some other pillar, the demon might have argued that Narasimha had hidden inside the pillar and that the pillar had been built around Him. But he would have no doubts about any tricks where the pillar of victory was concerned, because it had been built under his watchful eyes. In his Thiruvallikeni pasuram, Thirumangai Azhvar describes a scenario, which we witness even in our families every day — a child coming home from school, and a parent asking him what he has learnt. Prahlada comes home after lessons and his father asks him what he learnt that day. But Hiranyakasipu does not find his son’s words pleasing. The child recited the Lord’s thousand names, ‘ayira naamam’, says Periyazhvar. Thus, even before Bhishma, we have an example of the Lord’s 1000 names being recited.

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