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why Havan is most sacred ritual in Hinduism



Denigration of Hindu sacred symbols has become a fashion in Bollywood. Recent example is ‘Havan Kund maston ka jhund’, a song from the movie Bhag Milkha Bhag. 

Is Havan really a useless ritual that can be mocked by anyone in the name of freedom of expression or art? 

This article by Agniveer in Hindi explains that why Havan is most sacred ritual in Hinduism and why is it the duty of every human to perform Havan.

 This is to show how Havan is the source of all happiness and bliss in both material and spiritual world. Read this, know your roots..

हवन / यज्ञ/ अग्निहोत्र मनुष्यों के साथ सदा से चला आया है। हिन्दू धर्म में सर्वोच्च स्थान पर विराजमान यह हवन आज प्रायः एक आम आदमी से दूर है। दुर्भाग्य से इसे केवल कुछ वर्ग, जाति और धर्म तक सीमित कर दिया गया है। कोई यज्ञ पर प्रश्न कर रहा है तो कोई मजाक। इस लेख का उद्देश्य जनमानस को यह याद दिलाना है कि हवन क्यों इतना पवित्र है, क्यों यज्ञ करना न सिर्फ हर इंसान का अधिकार है बल्कि कर्त्तव्य भी है. यह लेख किसी विद्वान का नहीं, किसी सन्यासी का नहीं, यह लेख १०० करोड़ हिंदुओं ही नहीं बल्कि ७ अरब मनुष्यों के प्रतिनिधि एक साधारण से इंसान का है जिसमें हर नेक इंसान अपनी छवि देख सकता है. यह लेख आप ही के जैसे एक इंसान के हृदय की आवाज है जिसे आप भी अपने हृदय में महसूस कर सकेंगे..

हवन- मेरी आस्था

हिंदू धर्म में सर्वोपरि पूजनीय वेदों और ब्राह्मण ग्रंथों में यज्ञ/हवन की क्या महिमा है, उसकी कुछ झलक इन मन्त्रों में मिलती है-

अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवमृत्विजम्. होतारं रत्नधातमम् [ ऋग्वेद १/१/१/]

समिधाग्निं दुवस्यत घृतैः बोधयतातिथिं. आस्मिन् हव्या जुहोतन. [यजुर्वेद 3/1]

अग्निं दूतं पुरो दधे हव्यवाहमुप ब्रुवे. [यजुर्वेद 22/17]

सायंसायं गृहपतिर्नो अग्निः प्रातः प्रातः सौमनस्य दाता. [अथर्ववेद 19/7/3]

प्रातः प्रातः गृहपतिर्नो अग्निः सायं सायं सौमनस्य दाता. [अथर्ववेद 19/7/4]

तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन् पुरुषं जातमग्रतः [यजुर्वेद 31/9]

अस्मिन् यज्ञे स्वधया मदन्तोधि ब्रुवन्तु तेवन्त्वस्मान [यजुर्वेद 19/58]

यज्ञो वै श्रेष्ठतमं कर्म [शतपथ ब्राह्मण 1/7/1/5]

यज्ञो हि श्रेष्ठतमं कर्म [तैत्तिरीय 3/2/1/4]

यज्ञो अपि तस्यै जनतायै कल्पते, यत्रैवं विद्वान होता भवति [ऐतरेय ब्राह्मण १/२/१]

यदैवतः स यज्ञो वा यज्याङ्गं वा.. [निरुक्त ७/४]

इन मन्त्रों में निहित अर्थ और प्रार्थनाएं इस लेख के अंत में दिए जायेंगे जिन्हें पढकर कोई भी व्यक्ति खुद हवन करके अपना और औरों का भला कर सकता है. पर इन मन्त्रों का निचोड़ यह है कि ईश्वर मनुष्यों को आदेश करता है कि हवन/यज्ञ संसार का सर्वोत्तम कर्म है, पवित्र कर्म है जिसके करने से सुख ही सुख बरसता है.

यही नहीं, भगवान श्रीराम को रामायण में स्थान स्थान पर ‘यज्ञ करने वाला’ कहा गया है. महाभारत में श्रीकृष्ण सब कुछ छोड़ सकते हैं पर हवन नहीं छोड़ सकते. हस्तिनापुर जाने के लिए अपने रथ पर निकल पड़ते हैं, रास्ते में शाम होती है तो रथ रोक कर हवन करते हैं. अगले दिन कौरवों की राजसभा में हुंकार भरने से पहले अपनी कुटी में हवन करते हैं. अभिमन्यु के बलिदान जैसी भीषण घटना होने पर भी सबको साथ लेकर पहले यज्ञ करते हैं. श्रीकृष्ण के जीवन का एक एक क्षण जैसे आने वाले युगों को यह सन्देश दे रहा था कि चाहे कुछ हो जाए, यज्ञ करना कभी न छोड़ना.

जिस कर्म को भगवान स्वयं श्रेष्ठतम कर्म कहकर करने का आदेश दें, वो कर्म कर्म नहीं धर्म है. उसका न करना अधर्म है.

हवन- मेरा जीवन

मेरा जन्म हुआ तो हवन हुआ. पहली बार मेरे केश कटे तो हवन हुआ. मेरा नामकरण हुआ तो हवन हुआ. जन्मदिन पर हवन हुआ, गृह प्रवेश पर हवन हुआ, मेरे व्यवसाय का आरम्भ हुआ तो हवन हुआ, मेरी शादी हुई तो हवन हुआ, बच्चे हुए तो हवन हुआ, संकट आया तो हवन हुआ, खुशियाँ आईं तो हवन हुआ. एक तरह से देखूं तो हर बड़ा काम करने से पहले हवन हुआ. किस लिए? क्योंकि मेरी एक आस्था है कि हवन कर लूँगा तो भगवान साथ होंगे. मैं कहीं भी रहूँगा, भगवान साथ होंगे. कितनी भी कठिन परिस्थिति हों, भगवान मुझे हारने नहीं देंगे. हवन कुंड में डाली गयी एक एक आहुति मेरे जीवन रूपी अग्नि को और विस्तार देगी, उसे ऊंचा उठाएगी. इस जीवन की अग्नि में सारे पाप जलकर स्वाहा होंगे और मेरे सत्कर्मों की सुगंधि सब दिशाओं में फैलेगी. मैं हार और विफलताओं के सारे बीज इस हवन कुंड की अग्नि में जलाकर भस्म कर डालता हूँ ताकि जीत और सफलता मेरे जीवन के हिस्से हों. इस विश्वास के साथ हवन मेरे जीवन के हर काम में साथ होता है.

हवन- मेरी मुक्ति

हवन कुंड की आग, उसमें स्वाहा होती आहुतियाँ और आहुति से और प्रचंड होने वाली अग्नि. जीवन का तेज, उसमें डाली गयीं शुभ कर्मों की आहुतियाँ और उनसे और अधिक चमकता जीवन! क्या समानता है! हवन क्या है? अपने जीवन को उजले कर्मों से और चमकाने का संकल्प! अपने सब पाप, छल, विफलता, रोग, झूठ, दुर्भाग्य आदि को इस दिव्य अग्नि में जला डालने का संकल्प! हर नए दिन में एक नयी उड़ान भरने का संकल्प, हर नयी रात में नए सपने देखने का संकल्प! उस ईश्वर रूपी अग्नि में खुद को आहुति बनाके उसका हो जाने का संकल्प, उस दिव्य लौ में अपनी लौ लगाने का संकल्प और इस संसार के दुखों से छूट कर अग्नि के समान ऊपर उठ मुक्त होने का संकल्प! हवन मेरी सफलता का आर्ग है. हवन मेरी मुक्ति का मार्ग है, ईश्वर से मिलाने का मार्ग है. मेरे इस मार्ग को कोई रोक नहीं सकता.

हवन- मेरा भाग्य

लोग अशुभ से डरते हैं. किसी पर साया है तो किसी पर भूत प्रेत. किसी पर किसी ने जादू कर दिया है तो किसी के ग्रह खराब हैं. किसी का भाग्य साथ नहीं देता तो कोई असफलताओं का मारा है. क्यों? क्योंकि जीवन में संकल्प नहीं है. हवन कुंड के सामने बैठ कर उसकी अग्नि में आहुति डालते हुए इदं न मम कहकर एक बार अपने सब अच्छे बुरे कर्मों को उस ईश्वर को समर्पित कर दो. अपनी जीत हार उस ईश्वर के पल्ले बाँध दो. एक बार पवित्र अग्नि के सामने अपने संकल्प की घोषणा कर दो. एक बार कह दो कि अब हार भी उसकी और जीत भी उसकी, मैंने तो अपना सब उसे सौंप दिया. तुम्हारी हर हार जीत में न बदल जाए तो कहना. हर सुबह हवन की अग्नि में इदं न मम कहकर अपने काम शुरू करना और फिर अगर तुम्हे दुःख हो तो कहना. जिस घर में हवन की अग्नि हर दिन प्रज्ज्वलित होती है वहाँ अशुभ और हार के अँधेरे कभी नहीं टिकते. जिस घर में पवित्र अग्नि विराजमान हो उस घर में विनाश/अनिष्ट कभी नहीं हो सकता.

हवन- मेरा स्वास्थ्य

आस्था और भक्ति के प्रतीक हवन को करने के विचार मन में आते ही आत्मा में उमड़ने वाला ईश्वर प्रेम वैसा ही है जैसे एक माँ के लिए उसके गर्भस्थ अजन्मे बच्चे के प्रति भाव! न जिसको कभी देखा न सुना, तो भी उसके साथ एक कभी न टूटने वाला रिश्ता बन गया है, यही सोच सोच कर मानसिक आनंद की जो अवस्था एक माँ की होती है वही अवस्था एक भक्त की होती है. इस हवन के माध्यम से वह अपने अजन्मे अदृश्य ईश्वर के प्रति भाव पैदा करता है और उस अवस्था में मानसिक आनंद के चरम को पहुँचता है. इस चरम आनंद के फलस्वरूप मन विकार मुक्त हो जाता है. मस्तिष्क और शरीर में श्रेष्ठ रसों (होर्मोंस) का स्राव होता है जो पुराने रोगों का निदान करता है और नए रोगों को आने नहीं देता. हवन करने वाले के मानसिक रोग दस पांच दिनों से ज्यादा नहीं टिक सकते.

हवन में डाली जाने वाली सामग्री (ध्यान रहे, यह सामग्री आयुर्वेद के अनुसार औषधि आदि गुणों से युक्त जड़ी बूटियों से बनी हो) अग्नि में पड़कर सर्वत्र व्याप्त हो जाती है. घर के हर कोने में फ़ैल कर रोग के कीटाणुओं का विनाश करती है. वैज्ञानिक शोध से पता चला है कि हवन से निकलने वाला धुआँ हवा से फैलने वाली बीमारियों के कारक इन्फेक्शन करने वाले बैक्टीरिया (विषाणु) को नष्ट कर देता है. अधिक जानकारी के लिए इस लिंक पर जाइए- http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-08-17/health/28188655_1_medicinal-herbs-havan-nbri

विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन (WHO) के अनुसार दुनिया भर में साल भर में होने वाली ५७ मिलियन मौत में से अकेली १५ मिलियन (२५% से ज्यादा) मौत इन्ही इन्फेक्शन फैलाने वाले विषाणुओं से होती हैं! हवन करने से केवल ये बीमारियाँ ही नहीं, और भी बहुत सी बीमारी खत्म होती हैं, जैसे-

१. सर्दी/जुकाम/नजला

२. हर तरह का बुखार

३. मधुमेह (डायबिटीज/शुगर)

४. टीबी (क्षय रोग)

५. हर तरह का सिर दर्द

६. कमजोर हड्डियां

७. निम्न/उच्च रक्तचाप

८. अवसाद (डिप्रेशन)

इन रोगों के साथ साथ विषम रोगों में भी हवन अद्वितीय है, जैसे

९. मूत्र संबंधी रोग

१०. श्वास/खाद्य नली संबंधी रोग

११. स्प्लेनिक अब्सेस

१२. यकृत संबंधी रोग

१३. श्वेत रक्त कोशिका कैंसर

१४. Infections by Enterobacter Aerogenes

१५. Nosocomial Infections

१६. Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis

१७. nosocomial non-life-threatening infections

और यह सूची अंतहीन है! सौ से भी ज्यादा आम और खास रोग यज्ञ थैरेपी से ठीक होते हैं! सबसे बढ़कर हवन से शरीर, मन, वातावरण, परिस्थितियों और भाग्य पर अद्भुत प्रभाव होता है. घर परिवार, बच्चे बड़े सबके उत्तम स्वास्थ्य, आरोग्य और भाग्य के लिए यज्ञ से बढ़कर कुछ नहीं हो सकता! दिन अगर यज्ञ से शुरू हो तो कुछ अशुभ हो नहीं सकता, कोई रोग नहीं हो सकता.

हवन- मेरा सबकुछ

यज्ञ/हवन से सम्बंधित कुछ मन्त्रों के भाव सरल शब्दों में कुछ ऐसे हैं

– इस सृष्टि को रच कर जैसे ईश्वर हवन कर रहा है वैसे मैं भी करता हूँ.

– यह यज्ञ धनों का देने वाला है, इसे प्रतिदिन भक्ति से करो, उन्नति करो.

– हर दिन इस पवित्र अग्नि का आधान मेरे संकल्प को बढाता है.

– मैं इस हवन कुंड की अग्नि में अपने पाप और दुःख फूंक डालता हूँ.

– इस अग्नि की ज्वाला के समान सदा ऊपर को उठता हूँ.

– इस अग्नि के समान स्वतन्त्र विचरता हूँ, कोई मुझे बाँध नहीं सकता.

– अग्नि के तेज से मेरा मुखमंडल चमक उठा है, यह दिव्य तेज है.

– हवन कुंड की यह अग्नि मेरी रक्षा करती है.

– यज्ञ की इस अग्नि ने मेरी नसों में जान डाल दी है.

– एक हाथ से यज्ञ करता हूँ, दूसरे से सफलता ग्रहण करता हूँ.

– हवन के ये दिव्य मन्त्र मेरी जीत की घोषणा हैं.

– मेरा जीवन हवन कुंड की अग्नि है, कर्मों की आहुति से इसे और प्रचंड करता हूँ.

– प्रज्ज्वलित हुई हे हवन की अग्नि! तू मोक्ष के मार्ग में पहला पग है.

– यह अग्नि मेरा संकल्प है. हार और दुर्भाग्य इस हवन कुंड में राख बने पड़े हैं.

– हे सर्वत्र फैलती हवन की अग्नि! मेरी प्रसिद्धि का समाचार जन जन तक पहुँचा दे!

– इस हवन की अग्नि को मैंने हृदय में धारण किया है, अब कोई अँधेरा नहीं.

– यज्ञ और अशुभ वैसे ही हैं जैसे प्रकाश और अँधेरा. दोनों एक साथ नहीं रह सकते.

– भाग्य कर्म से बनते हैं और कर्म यज्ञ से. यज्ञ कर और भाग्य चमका ले!

– इस यज्ञ की अग्नि की रगड़ से बुद्धियाँ प्रज्ज्वलित हो उठती हैं.

– यह ऊपर को उठती अग्नि मुझे भी उठाती है.

– हे अग्नि! तू मेरे प्रिय जनों की रक्षा कर!

– हे अग्नि! तू मुझे प्रेम करने वाला साथी दे. शुभ गुणों से युक्त संतान दे!

– हे अग्नि! तू समस्त रोगों को जड़ से काट दे!

– अब यह हवन की अग्नि मेरे सीने में धधकती है, यह कभी नहीं बुझ सकती.

– नया दिन, नयी अग्नि और नयी जीत.

हे मानवमात्र! हृदय पर हाथ रखकर कहना, क्या दुनिया में कोई दूसरी चीज इन शब्दों का मुकाबला कर सकती है? इस तरह के न जाने कितने चमत्कारी, रोगनाशक, बलवर्धक और जीत के मन्त्रों से यह हवन की प्रक्रिया भरी पड़ी है. जिंदगी की सब समस्याओं का नाश करने वाली और सुखों का अमृत पिलाने वाली यह हवन क्रिया मेरी संस्कृति का हिस्सा है, धर्म का हिस्सा है, आध्यात्म का हिस्सा है, यह सोच कर गर्व से सीना फूल जाता है. हवन मेरे लिए कोई कर्मकांड नहीं है. यह परमेश्वर का आदेश है, श्रीराम की मर्यादा की धरोहर है. श्रीकृष्ण की बंसी की तान है, रण क्षेत्र में पाञ्चजन्य शंख की गुंजार है, अधर्म पर धर्म की जीत की घोषणा है. हवन मेरी जीत का संकल्प है, मेरी जीत की मुहर है. मैं इसे कभी नहीं छोडूंगा.

अग्निवीर घोषणा करता है कि अब हम हर घर में हवन करेंगे और करवाएंगे. न जाति का बंधन होगा और न मजहब की बेडियाँ. न रंग न नस्ल न स्त्री पुरुष का भेद. अब हर इंसान हवन करेगा, सुखी होगा!

जो कोई भी व्यक्ति- हिन्दू, मुस्लिम, सिख, ईसाई, बौद्ध, यहूदी, नास्तिक या कोई भी, हवन करना चाहता है, संकल्प करना चाहता है, वह यहाँ इस लिंक पर जाकर मंगा सकता है। कोई जाति धर्म- मजहब या लिंग का भेद नहीं है।

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Indian Biased Media


Media will intrude the labour Ward of Ms.Aiswarya Rai Bachchan , but no news will be flashed about Priyanka’s kids.

Nor would there be a whisper about Rahul Gandhi’s Colombian Girl friend or a killing of a girl.

The Media respects the Privacy of Sonia Gandhi.

Well, what can you expect when the Media in India is not Indian at all?

“A very popular TV news media is funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain Supports Communism. Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because Pakistan President has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan . Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother ofPrakash Karat, General Secretary of the Communist party of India . His wife and Brinda Karat are sisters.

India Today :

Which used to be the only national weekly which supported BJP is now bought by NDTV!! Since then the tone has changed drastically and turned into Hindu bashing.

This is 100 percent funded by Southern Baptist Churchwith its branches in all over the world with HQ in US.. The Church annually allocates $800 million for promotion of its channel. Its Indian head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

Times group list:
 Times Of India, Mid-Day, Nav-Bharth Times, Stardust, Femina, Vijay Times, Vijaya Karnataka, Times now (24- hour news channel) and many more…

Times Group is owned by Bennet & Coleman. ‘World Christian Council’ does 80 percent of the Funding, and an Englishman and an Italian equally share balance 20 percent. The Italian Robertio Mindo is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi.

Star TV:

It is run by an Australian, who is supported by St. Peters Pontifical Church Melbourne.

Hindustan Times:

Owned by Birla Group, but hands have changed since Shobana Bhartiya took over. Presently it is working in Collaboration with Times Group.

The Hindu:

English daily, started over 125 years has been recently taken over by Joshua Society, Berne , Switzerland .. N. Ram’s wife is a Swiss national.

Indian Express:

Divided into two groups. The Indian Express and new Indian Express (southern edition) ACTS Christian Ministries have major stake in the Indian Express and latter is still with the Indian counterpart.”

You’ll Likely Be Fired If Obama Is Re-elected


CNBC.com Article: CEO to Workers: You’ll Likely Be Fired If Obama Is Re-elected

David Siegel told his 7,000 workers that “people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t.”

Full Story:
http://www.cnbc.com/id/49356069

God Is Busy


Subject: : God Is Busy.

Short and sweet straight to the point. I love it.

If you don’t know GOD, don’t make stupid remarks!!!!!!
A young soldier was taking some college courses between assignments.
He had completed 3 tours of duty in Afghanistan.
One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in.
He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, “GOD, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform… I’ll give you exactly 15 min.”

The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am GOD, I’m still waiting.”

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the soldier got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him clean off the platform.
The professor was out cold.

The young soldier went back to his seat and sat there, silently.

The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there looking on in silence.
The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the soldier and asked,

“What in the world is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The young soldier stood up and calmly replied,
“GOD was too busy today protecting soldiers, who are protecting your right to
say stupid crap and act like an idiot. So He sent me.”

The classroom erupted in cheers!

THIS IS GOOD, KEEP IT GOING!

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I am not going to street with Kalashnikovs’:


freedom of speech

freedom of speech (Photo credit: duskiboy)

‘I’m not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs’: Charlie Hebdo editor rejects responsibility for violence over naked Mohammad cartoons

Has the whole world gone mad? Why is this even a question?

Let’s say you call me a racist, bigoted Islamophobe.

I am deeply insulted. At that moment I have a huge range of options before me.

I can calmly explain to you that Islamic supremacism is not a race, fighting for free speech and equality of rights for all is not bigotry, and “Islamophobia” is a manipulative concept used by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to stifle resistance to Islamic supremacism and jihad.

Or I can start yelling and calling you names. Or I can start muttering into my vodka tonic about the injustice of it all.

Or I can murder you, drag your body through the streets, set fire to your embassy, and demand laws against insulting me. Or I can do any number of other things.

Which one will I choose? It’s up to me, not to you.

You might have a strong hunch as to how I will react, and say to your companion, “That Spencer, he is going to come out with another windy, closely reasoned refutation of my charges that everyone will ignore,” or “That Spencer, he is going to burn down my embassy,” but you still can’t be absolutely sure what I am going to do, because I am not an automaton, I am a human being endowed with the faculty of reason, and I may always choose to react in a way that will surprise you.

Or I may not. But in any case, it is up to me. If I kill you, there is absolutely no justifiable basis on which anyone could say, “Well, he had it coming. Look how he provoked him.” My choice was my own, and only I bear responsibility for it.

But today that basic and elemental truth is lost. If Muslims rage, riot and murder for any reason, they bear no responsibility.

The only ones who bear any responsibility for their raging, rioting and murdering are the non-Muslims who somehow provoked them by stating Truth about pedophile cult leader.

That I have to take the time to explain this at all, and that it will be universally ignored, is an indication of how much our public discourse has degenerated.

The road is being swiftly paved for the destruction of the freedom of speech. When,

in another year or so, I am safely imprisoned for daring to speak the truth and a new era of peace has dawned between the West and the Islamic world,

and yet the jihad keeps coming, and the full implications of the new “hate speech” laws start to become clear in the quashing of all political dissent, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Of course, maybe none of that will happen, and the freedom of speech will suddenly sport a thousand articulate defenders who have not yet been completely demonized and marginalized out of the public square.

But I don’t see them on the horizon right now.

“‘I’m not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs’: Charlie Hebdo editor rejects responsibility for violence over naked Mohammad cartoons,”

The editor of French magazine Charlie Hebdo has said that when his magazine ridiculed the Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, he and his organization were not responsible for fuelling the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a video depicting him as a lecherous fool.

The editor, Stephane Charbonnier, also known as Charb, rejected criticism. “We have the impression that it’s officially allowed for Charlie Hebdo to attack the Catholic far-right but we cannot poke fun at fundamental Islamists,” he said.

“It shows the climate. Everyone is driven by fear, and that is exactly what this small handful of extremists who do not represent anyone want: to make everyone afraid, to shut us all in a cave,” he told Reuters.

“Muhammad isn’t sacred to me,” he said in an interview at the weekly’s offices on the northeast edge of Paris. “I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don’t live under Koranic law.”

Charbonnier said he had no regrets and felt no responsibility for any violence.

“I’m not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs,” he said. “We’ve had 1,000 issues and only three problems, all after front pages about radical Islam.”

One cartoon alluded to the scandal over a French magazine’s publication of topless photos of the wife of Britain’s Prince William.

It showed a bare female torso topped by a beard with the caption “Riots in Arab countries after photos of Mrs Mohammad are published”….

“We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. But we’ve spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our constitution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it.”…

That’s the first step.

Pakistan on the Brink by Ahmed Rashid: review


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9214669/Pakistan-on-the-Brink-by-Ahmed-Rashid-review.html

Pakistan on the Brink by Ahmed Rashid: review

By Duncan Gardham Last Updated: 12:26PM BST 23/04/2012
Ahmed Rashid’s new books reveals a Pakistan crippled by poor leadership, says Duncan Gardham

As Britain desperately tries to rescue some pride from its imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, the best-case scenario may be that we leave behind a less stable and more corrupt version of Pakistan.

The vision of that country painted by Ahmed Rashid, one of the leading analysts of the “Af-Pak” relationship, is not an encouraging one. “Pakistan is now considered the most fragile place in the world… It is the most unstable country and the most vulnerable to terrorist violence, political change or economic collapse,” he writes in his latest book, Pakistan on the Brink.

While it is not yet a failed state, Rashid admits that its multiple long-term and short-term problems seem “insurmountable by the present military and civilian leadership”.

Among the myriad problems are the corrupt and rundown bureaucracy, judiciary and police force and an elite that “lacks all sense of responsibility towards the public, refuses to pay taxes and is immeasurably corrupt”. There is no drinking water for a third of the population, no electricity for up to 16 hours a day and half the school-age children do not go to school, meaning “young men face a future of little promise and are ready to sign on to jihad”.

The judiciary is a “broken instrument incapable of handing down judgments to the real criminals” and retired intelligence officers spread conspiracy theories and blame America on a plethora of high-octane chat shows.

Meanwhile, the West cannot afford to continue the fight in Afghanistan and the question is, in the words of one anonymous Western ambassador, “will there be an Afghan army and civil service to take over when we leave, or will we just switch off the lights?”

Even if you’re optimistic the Afghan state will still be a “basket case” dependent on receiving more than $8 billion (£5 bn) in aid each year, Rashid points out.

Pakistan is not much better, having sought bail-outs from the IMF 11 times since 1988 and completed just one of their programmes (under General Pervez Musharraf in 2001) and remaining dependent on $4.8 billion (£3 bn) in foreign assistance. Debt servicing and defence take up 60 per cent of the Pakistani budget and growth was just 2.6 per cent last year, compared with around 7 per cent next door in India.

Pakistan on the Brink follows on from where Descent into Chaos (2008) – on David Cameron’s summer reading list for his shadow cabinet – left off. It provides a much-needed update on what has happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past four years, particularly the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the rapid breakdown of the US relationship with Pakistan and attempts to make peace with the Taliban.

Rashid is as critical of President Barack Obama’s approach to Afghanistan as he was of President George W Bush in his last book. It was clear that the US gambled on Hamid Karzai losing the 2009 presidential elections and by the time he won, the relationship had disintegrated almost beyond repair.

“Handling a wary president preoccupied with keeping his own head requires a personal touch,” Rashid says of his old friend, before adding that “Karzai was his own worst enemy” who failed to accept that corruption undermined his legitimacy.

The problem is that the leadership in Pakistan is no better. “For too long the military and the political parties have neglected their one single task, which is to make life better for their people,” he concludes.

Rashid’s thesis is that the military is in the driving seat, deciding policy, in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, to the detriment of both nations. That ignores the theory that the military is, in the words of one analyst, “the only institution that really works in Pakistan”, as well as Nato’s Herculean efforts in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, if Pakistan follows its present chosen path – a “paranoid insecure” state which uses “extremists and diplomatic blackmail” – it will, he warns, “lose everything in Afghanistan”.

This excellent book summarises the challenges faced by both countries – although the solutions are difficult to see. A former Daily Telegraph correspondent in Pakistan, Rashid has an eye for the big picture as well as a journalist’s nose for detail.

Pakistan has enormous latent goodwill and expertise in a generation of young Britons with their roots in Pakistan. Like their neighbours across the Khyber Pass, they have spectacular natural beauty, plentiful natural resources, a strategic position for trade, an evocative history and a people with eyes that sparkle with untapped potential – if only their leaders had more vision.

Pakistan on the Brink: the Future of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West

by Ahmed Rashid

256pp, Allen Lane, £18 (plus £1.25 P&P) Buy now from Telegraph Books (RRP £20, ebook £20)

Does the Tax Man have the right to prevent us from traveling,


http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/no-taxes-no-travel-why-the-irs-wants-the-right-to-seize-your-passport/255940/

Does the Tax Man have the right to prevent us from traveling, even without a formal charge of evasion or another crime?

Maybe we’re about to find out.
 You’re standing at the airport. The ticket agent clacks away on the keyboard. She looks up. “I’m sorry,” she says. “We can’t let you board the plane today.” Why? “It’s the IRS. They say you haven’t paid all of your taxes. “

It sounds like the opening scene of a straight-to-DVD Washington thriller. It’s actually a few votes from becoming a reality. A new bill, quietly making its way through Congress, allows the federal government to stop people with unpaid taxes from leaving the country– even if they haven’t been charged with tax evasion or any other formal crime.

It all started last fall, when Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (or “MAP-21″ as it’s now called), to reauthorize funds for federal highway and transportation programs. While that doesn’t sound like anything having to do with your taxes, the bill includes a little-noticed section that allows the State Department to “deny, revoke or limit” passport rights for any taxpayers with “serious delinquencies.”

Here’s how it would work. If someone owed more than $50,000 in back taxes, the IRS would be able to send their name over to the passport office for suspension, provided that the IRS already either filed a public lien or a assessed a levy for the outstanding balance. The bill does provide a few exceptions though. For example, if a person has set up a payment plan (that they’re paying in a timely manner), is legitimately disputing the debt, or has an emergency situation or humanitarian reason and must travel internationally, they may be able to leave for a limited time despite their unpaid taxes.

IS THAT LEGAL?

Timothy Meyer, a constitutional law professor at the University of Georgia, who’s also served as a State Department lawyer, believes that, for all its creepiness, the rule is probably legal. He concludes that if the passport provisions of MAP 21 became law and were challenged, chances are, the courts would find that they satisfy Due Process concerns. Even though there’s no judicial hearing before your travel rights are restricted, the bill does protect a passport holder who’s challenging the alleged tax debt. And according to Professor Meyer, that’s probably enough here.

“Courts have upheld statutes calling for the revocation and denial of passports to those in arrears of child support payments,” he explains. “In part, because the child support payments can be contested.”

As Meyer points out, MAP 21 certainly isn’t the first law to limit a person’s right to travel because they owe somebody money. The State Department screens passport applications every day for people who owe child support of more than $2500–a lot less than the $50,000 proposed here. And the tax system is routinely used to get Americans to make good on their outstanding liabilities. In fact, over the next few weeks, some folks won’t be getting the refund check they’re expecting if, for instance, they’ve defaulted on their student loans, owe state or local taxes, or haven’t ponied up for the child support they owe. Most people don’t realize it, but the IRS is in contact with federal and state agencies throughout the year, making sure you’ve paid your debts before they send you a chunk of change back in the mail.

Kramer Levin partner and member of the IRS Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, Russell Pinilis, is sympathetic to both sides of the issue, but thinks that overall, MAP 21 reflects the frustrating position the government faces when someone just won’t pay their taxes.

“The problem,” he says, “is that the government isn’t a normal creditor. They’re not lending you money. They can’t put you in jail, and they have to be able to do something.”

There’s no question that the IRS has trouble collecting the revenue they’re supposed to, and that those of us who pay our taxes are hurt by the people who don’t. The IRS has even developed the concept of the “tax gap” as a way to gauge people’s compliance (or lack there of) with their federal tax obligation. According to the most recently released data, Americans owe $450 billion more in federal taxes than they actually paid, an increase in $105 billion from the last time the IRS looked at the issue.
 Professor Daniel Shaviro, a tax policy expert at New York University School of Law, recognizes that there is a legitimate policy goal at play in the proposed travel restrictions: making sure someone stays in the country and really pays the taxes they owe. After all, he says, someone who owes a huge amount in taxes might present a flight risk. He does, however, worry about the possibility that the passport rules could be misused, say, to harass specific individuals whom government officials dislike.
IRS + TSA = UH OH

But is all of this a little extreme? The IRS places tax liens on assets all the time, putting other creditors on notice that you have an outstanding debt with the US government. And would someone really flee the country–leaving their home and their family behind–over a $55,000 tax bill? At this point, there’s no real data either way, but Senator Boxer continues to push House Republicans to pass MAP 21 with the travel ban in place.

“Thousands of businesses are at stake,” she said in a statement. “There are many people on both sides of the aisle in the Senate who want to get our bill passed into law, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep the pressure on the Republican House to do just that.”
For now, at least, MAP 21 remains pending legislation. But, in the future, when traveling abroad, you may need to worry about more than just your shots and those baggage fees — you may need permission from the IRS.

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