* Foreign

U.S. urges China to show restraint; activist Joshua Wong held

Marching on: Protesters showing their open palms, signifying their five demands, in Hong Kong on Sunday.APKin Cheung

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters on Sunday sang the Star Spangled Banner and called on U.S. President Donald Trump to “liberate” the Chinese-ruled city, before violence broke out in the latest in a three-month series of clashes and unrest.

The protest started peacefully but fell into a now familiar pattern of barricades, window smashing and street fires, this time in the smartest banking and shopping district of the former British colony, as evening fell.

Police moved in with running battles with stone-throwing protesters who fled to nearby Admiralty and the bar district of Wan Chai and shopping area of Causeway Bay.

Police stood by earlier as protesters, under a sea of umbrellas against the sub-tropical sun, waved the Stars and Stripes and placards demanding democracy. “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” they shouted before handing over petitions at the U.S. Consulate. “Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the upmarket Causeway Bay shopping district.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged China to exercise restraint in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Last month, Mr. Trump suggested China should “humanely” settle the problem in Hong Kong before a trade deal is reached with Washington. Earlier, Mr. Trump called the protests “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.

Activists dug up bricks from pathways to break windows and set fires from cardboard boxes on the streets, building barricades with metal fencing.

Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland. Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding that autonomy.

‘Fomenting unrest’

China denies the accusation of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests, accusing the United States and Britain of fomenting unrest, and warned of the damage to the economy.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced concessions this week aimed at ending the protests, including formally scrapping a hugely unpopular extradition bill, which ignited the unrest in June. Many protesters said it was too little, too late.

U.S. legislation addressing China’s actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess next week, their leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, said on Thursday.

Mr. Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who sets the floor agenda, to bring up a bipartisan Bill that would require an annual justification of the special treatment afforded by Washington to Hong Kong, including special trade and business privileges, under the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

The legislation, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would also mandate that officials in China and Hong Kong who have undermined the city's autonomy are vulnerable to sanctions.

Protesters, in a petition handed to the U.S. Consulate, urged that it be passed in full.

Meanwhile, Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy ”Umbrella” movement five years ago, was re-arrested on Sunday.

Afghanistan government cautiously welcomes halt to secret U.S.-Taliban summit

Back to square one: Afghan security forces taking positions during a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz. REUTERS/FileSTRINGER

The Taliban said the U.S. “will be harmed more than anyone” but left the door open for future negotiations on Sunday after President Donald Trump abruptly announced that he had called off year-long talks to end America’s longest war.

“We still... believe that the American side will come back to this position... Our fight for the past 18 years should have proven to the Americans that we will not be satisfied until we witness the complete end of the occupation,” the group said.

Mr. Trump had cited a Taliban attack in Kabul on Thursday, which killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier, as his reason for calling off the talks, including a secret meeting with the insurgents at Camp David in Maryland planned for this weekend.

But the Taliban dismissed his reasoning in their statement, saying it showed “neither experience nor patience”, and accused the U.S. of killing “hundreds of Afghans” in the fighting.

“Americans will be harmed more than any other,” by Mr. Trump’s decision, the statement said, adding that the U.S.’s “credibility will be harmed, their anti-peace stance will become more visible to the world, their casualties and financial losses will increase, and the US role in international political interaction will be discredited even further.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office cautiously saluted the “sincere efforts of its allies”..

“The Afghan government, in relation to the peace, appreciates the sincere efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the U.S. and other allies to bring a lasting peace,” said a statement from President Ashraf Ghani’s office.

Meanwhile, many Afghans welcomes the U.S. position. “It was a good opportunity for (the Taliban) but it was wasted because they did not stop attacks,” 22-year-old Ahmad Jawed said.

Kabul resident Yama Safdari, 24, regretted that it took the death of one American to stop the process “while so many Afghan army forces and civilians are killed on a daily basis”.

Many Afghans welcomed the decision on social media.

Amber Rudd says the govt. is spending its energy on a ‘no deal’ Brexit instead of securing a deal with the EU

Amber Rudd leaving the Cabinet Office in London. AFP/fileBEN STANSALL

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a fresh blow on Saturday when senior Minister Amber Rudd quit her Work and Pensions post in protest at his handling of the Brexit crisis.

Her resignation caps a miserable week for Mr. Johnson as he tries to steer his splintered country through its biggest political crisis since the Second World War.

Ms. Rudd was a moderate member of former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government whose endorsement Mr. Johnson coveted during his successful U.K. leadership challenge in July.

But she said on Saturday that she could no longer endorse Mr. Johnson’s approach to negotiations with Brussels — or handling of domestic politics. “I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip,” Ms. Rudd tweeted.

“I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled,” she said referring to Mr. Johnson’s decision to expel 21 MPs from the Conservative party for voting against the government on Brexit.

Ms. Rudd said in her resignation letter that she felt uneasy about Mr. Johnson’s commitment to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 even if the two sides fail to reach a negotiated deal.

She said she had once viewed Mr. Johnson’s threat of a messy “no-deal” divorce as a useful negotiating tactic to take with Brussels. “However, I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective.”

“The government is expending a lot of energy to prepare for ‘no deal’ but I have not seen the same level of intensity go into our talks with the European Union.”

Mr. Johnson has been adamant that he will not seek a third Brexit delay this year.

Labour Party is plotting a strategy with smaller parliamentary groups that could leave Johnson with no other alternative but to seek an extension to the Brexit talks or resign.

Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon, Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink and Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose showcased

A still from The Sky Is Pink. Special Arrangement

With 36% of its entire slate of films directed by women, it’s no surprise to find TIFF showcasing works of three women filmmakers in its pick of four Indian films — Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon, Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink and Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose.

Ms. Bose’s film is based on the real story of Aditi (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Niren Chaudhary (Farhan Akhtar) and their daughter Aisha (Zaira Wasim), a patient of SCID (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency), a genetic disorder in which one loses the ability to fight infections.

A note at the very start of the film talks about it having been made with an unprecedented support and access provided by the Chaudhary family itself. In retrospect, however, it seems to hem in the film. The documentary approach gets the better of the cinematic eye. In recording their lives and bringing to fore every possible detail of the Chaudharys’ remarkable struggle to help their daughter, even while keeping their own marriage going through tremendous stress and strain, the film tries to pack in a lot and ends up spreading itself too thin. The romance of the parents, their silly jealousies, little fights seem pointless diversions that make the film stray rather than keep it on course.

In the process, characters and relationships, situations and trajectories get too scattered, the truly poignant moments often get lost in the several banal and some discomfiting, outright manipulative ones.

The back and forth narrative told through the perspective of the dead daughter has a whimsical potential that doesn’t get adequately realised. There are several broad issues covered — the many individual ways of dealing with grief and pain, a shared tragedy casting people adrift than bringing them together, a sibling getting neglected — but all of them remain implicit than leap out and grab you. Chopra Jonas performs with earnestness, Akhtar looks curiously distanced, Wasim and Rohit Saraf as her elder brother are winsome.

While watching The Sky Is Pink, I was constantly reminded of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1975 film Mili, also about a family facing the loss of a beloved daughter. There was something candid and sincere in the way Mr. Mukherjee made you well up and reach out for the tissues; The Sky Is Pink feels too crafty and calculated for its own good.

(The writer is in Toronto at the invitation of TIFF)

The Lord is the embodiment of dharma and always remains the antaratma in each being. In a discourse, Sri Kesava Dikshitar pointed out that Krishna avatar is celebrated in the Bhagavata Purana, the Mahabharata, the Narayaneeyam and many other texts and these descriptions bring to life the exclusive atmosphere of the Lord’s advent. In the Mahabharata, Vyasa speaks with loving devotion of Krishna’s birth as taking place at the same time when Kunti gives birth to Arjuna, to indicate the Narayana and Nara tatva that they represent respectively. Narayana Bhattatiri describes Krishna avatar as taking place in the temple at Guruvayur. The deity is none other than the wonderful child described in the Bhagavata Purana with the unmistakable marks of conch, discus, mace, pitambara, kaustuba hara, srivatsa mark etc. Except for Kamsa and the evil forces who dread the advent of Krishna, all the rest are joyous to welcome Him.

The jnanis see Him as the very Supreme Brahman. The rains that had started dwindle into a gentle drizzle to welcome Krishna. Krishna’s birth continues to be celebrated with great devotion till date even after almost 5,000 odd years. During His life of 125 years, He has shown that His leelas teach the values of life even as He walked the streets of Mathura, Brindavan, and Dwaraka. His dignity and decorum are unique. His words are powerful and show mankind how to live and gain salvation. The Uddhava Gita and the Bhagavad Gita are the essence of Vedanta sastra. Even if one immerses in the Gita either in karma, jnana and bhakti yogas, at least once, he gets relief from samsara. It is equal to having bath in the Ganga that is believed to wash one’s sins. The only mantra that is taught is total surrender to Krishna who will take care of everything else for each one.

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