India troops in Kashmir gun battle

An Indian soldier is evacuated by helicopter after the attack by suspected militants

At least 10 people have been killed in a gun battle between Indian troops and suspected Pakistani militants in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The clashes erupted after the gunmen infiltrated an abandoned army bunker in the Jammu region in Indian-administered Kashmir.

At least three civilians were among the dead, according to reports.

Pakistan and India have overlapping territorial claims in Kashmir and have fought two wars over the region.

The two countries are currently attending a regional trade summit in Nepal, but some observers say their rivalry has overshadowed attempts to strike a deal.

Thursday’s fighting happened near an Indian army base in the town of Arnia, an area that saw deadly fighting between Pakistani and India troops in September.

A senior police official in Jammu told the BBC that about five militants gained access to the disused bunker.

After locals informed the border guard, troops were called in and began to surround the area, he said.

A gun battle then erupted, lasting for approximately six hours.

Civilians in the area – which is only 3km (2 miles) from the international border with Pakistan – were evacuated and schools closed down, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir since an anti-India uprising began in 1989.

In recent years violence has abated from its peak in the 1990s, but the causes of the insurgency are still far from resolved.

A ceasefire agreed in 2003 remains in place, but the nuclear-armed neighbours often accuse each other of violating it.

Last month both sides issued warnings to one another after violence in the region saw at least 19 civilians killed.

FBI threats to MLK prompt snooping warnings

Martin Luther King Jr speaks in London in 1963.

A disturbing, decades-old letter sent to Martin Luther King Jr by the FBI is serving, for many, as a reminder of the scope and history of US governmental surveillance programmes – and their potential for abuse.

Heavily redacted versions of the 1964 letter have been available for years, but an uncensored copy was recently discovered by Yale historian Beverly Gage. Now revealed are brazen threats to smear King by making details of his numerous extramarital affairs public and hints at an audiotape that may have accompanied the letter.

While the letter is unsigned, a Senate Committee confirmed a decade after it was sent that it had come from the FBI during then-Director J. Edgar Hoover’s five-decade-long leadership of the bureau.

In a piece for the New York Times, Gage writes that the FBI had originally started monitoring King because of suspected ties to the US Communist Party. But after King began criticising the government for failing to enforce civil rights in the American South and his participation in the 1963 March on Washington, Gage says the range of the FBI’s surveillance spread.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of their story is not what the FBI attempted, but what it failed to do”

While they failed to link King to communism, the wiretaps and bugs in his home, office and hotel rooms did discover a number of extramarital affairs, which many civil rights leaders already knew about.

When FBI officials brought information about King’s personal life to journalists, though, the story was largely ignored. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That year, Hoover condemned King, calling him “the most notorious liar in the country”. A few days later, William Sullivan, a deputy to Hoover at the FBI, sent the letter.

“King, like all frauds your end is approaching,” the letter, crafted as a message from a disillusioned supporter, reads. “You could have been our greatest leader. You, even at an early age, have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.”

The correspondence ends with a vague threat.

“King, there is only one thing left for you to do,” it reads. “You know what it is.”

Many, including King at the time he received it, see this as a suggestion that King should kill himself.

Gage writes in her piece that the odd thing about this time period is that the FBI’s campaign against King was a spectacular flop. While today King is looked at as a moral ideal, Hoover is wildly unpopular.

“In this context, perhaps the most surprising aspect of their story is not what the FBI attempted, but what it failed to do,” she writes.

Although the FBI’s attempts to discredit King were unsuccessful, that doesn’t mean modern intelligence agencies have given up on similar tactics.

Nadia Kayyali, writing for the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s blog, Deeplinks, says the King letter could be a page out of the handbook of the British online intelligence unit dubbed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group – a group whose mission is to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt enemies by discrediting them”.

Today, she writes, that translates into rummaging through Facebook chats, embarrassing internet browsing history and emails in order to discredit any leader who threatens the status quo or to blackmail someone into becoming an informant.

We should still be vigilant in insisting that the tactics used with King have no place in this day and age”

“These are not far-fetched ideas,” she says. “They are the reality of what happens when the surveillance state is allowed to grow out of control, and the full King letter, as well as current intelligence community practices, illustrate that reality richly.”

Salon’s Marcy Wheeler writes that there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the intelligence community – including who today’s targets are, if they are at the same level of importance as King or how exactly the National Security Agency or the FBI is getting information about them.

But, she writes, we do know that today’s spies are more powerful than ever because of technology, and they have more access because so much of our lives are spent online.

It may take a half-century, as it has with King, to see the fruits of the surveillance the NSA and FBI direct at leaders of groups perceived to be a threat, whether it be Muslims fighting to defend their legal rights or overseas preachers criticising American expansion she writes. But we should still be vigilant in insisting that the tactics used with King have no place in this day and age

And when it comes to what Americans do and don’t know, Nick Gillespie says that it’s important to consider a wider scope.

The more we learn about the government these days, the less we can trust it, he writes for the Daily Beast

He adds that it’s fitting that the full details of the government’s surveillance of King are coming to light in the age of Wikileaks, NSA leaker Edward Snowden and a White House that promised to be the most transparent administration in US history.

There’s a real opportunity for the politicians, the parties and the causes that dare to embrace real transparency about how legislation is being crafted, about our surveillance programs at home and abroad  as a core value and something other than a throwaway slogan, Gillespie writes. But as an unbroken thread of mendacity and mischief binds the present to the past, a future in which the government can be trusted seems farther off than ever

Gage closes her piece by noting that James Comey, the current director of the FBI, keeps a copy of the agency’s King wiretap request on his desk “as a reminder of the bureau’s capacity to do wrong

On Tuesday night, the US Senate narrowly voted down a measure that would have curtailed the government’s ability to search through private phone records The King request may be a potent symbol of government intrusion, but campaigners today would say it is dwarfed by the thousands of similar orders and warrants being issued by the FBI each year

Huge search for general in Colombia

President Juan Manuel Santos (R), sent his defence minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon (LC) to lead the investigation.

The Colombian authorities have begun a huge search operation to find a general abducted by left-wing Farc rebels on Sunday

The abduction of Ruben Dario Alzate marks the first time in 50 years of conflict that a general has been taken

President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the next round of the peace talks which have been taking place in Havana for the past two years

He sent his defence minister to the region where the general was taken

The president demanded that the kidnappers free Brig Gen Alzate safe and sound

During the peace talks, the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the government did not declare a ceasefire

Brig Gen Alzate was travelling along the Atrato river in the northern province of Choco by boat

He stopped at a village called Las Mercedes, about 15km (10 miles) from the provincial capital Quibdo to talk to the local community.

Rebels thought to belong to the 34th division of the Farc met him there, reports say.

The rebels searched him and took him and two other people – lawyer Gloria Urrego and Capt Jorge Rodriguez Contreras – captive, the army says.

A spokesman for the Farc in Havana declined to comment, saying the rebels’ negotiators were still investigating the incident. ‎

‎‎Writing on Twitter, President Santos also demanded an explanation from Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon as to what Brig Gen Alzate was doing in an area of high rebel activity dressed in civilian clothes. ‎

‎More than two years ago, the Farc announced they would stop their policy of kidnapping people in order to show their good will ahead of peace negotiations.

But after seizing two soldiers recently in the eastern province of Arauca they clarified that that policy applied only to civilians, not to military targets.

An estimated 220,000 people have died in five decades of armed conflict in Colombia. ‎

President Santos was re elected on a promise of driving the peace process forward but Colombians are getting increasingly impatient with the slow pace of progress at the peace talks.

Rocket bike sets 207mph speed record

(Mersin Escort) — Francois Gissy attached a small rocket to his bicycle, pedalled to the start line, and then fired it up

A cyclist has ridden a rocket-equipped push bicycle into the record books by attaining speeds of 207mph (333km/h) at a racetrack in France.

It took Francois Gissy 4.8 seconds to accelerate to his top speed at the Circuit Paul Ricard racetrack, near Marseille.

The Frenchman believes he can achieve 250mph on his next run on the vehicle.

However, he must first raise additional funds.

It’s extremely intense, that’s why it’s a real feat, he told the BBC following Sunday’s ride

The bicycle is extremely lightweight, there’s no aerodynamic covering and the force of the drag is extreme  maybe 200kg [440lb] of force on my body.

At the moment [of riding] it’s very scary  there’s no pleasure like you would get from a motorcycle.

But when you stop, you think  yes, that was amazing.

The rocket-propelled bicycle, named Kamikaze 5, was designed by Mr Gissy’s Swiss friend Arnold Neracher, and has been used in a series of ever-faster speed challenges organised by the two men since 2011.

The current model uses concentrated hydrogen peroxide as fuel and silver as a catalyst. This generates heat and water, which is expelled as steam through a rocket nozzle, providing the bike with thrust

This provides a safer alternative to normal rocket engines, which typically burn together two different chemicals.

“On the bicycle it’s just on and off, everything or nothing,” Mr Gissy added.

“It’s a technical challenge, not just speed for speed’s sake.”

During the ride, Mr Gissy keeps his legs up in the air behind him, putting his body into almost a horizontal position.

Assuming he finds sponsorship, he now hopes to accelerate to 250mph or more in less than two seconds on a revised design, nicknamed the Spine Crusher.

To do this he may end up mixing two substances together – hydrogen peroxide and either kerosene or vegetable oil.

It would be more expensive to build, but once it’s built the fuel would cost less because it would consume about half the amount of hydrogen peroxide, Mr Gissy said.

It would be much more spectacular  lots of noise, huge 3m [9.8ft] flames but it’s not necessary to make the performance better

The 32-year-old former bus driver added that he will need to conduct tests in a wind tunnel before heading back to the track because of the increased G-forces the bike would experience.

You have to have perfect balance, otherwise the bicycle will be airborne  it can flip over, he said.

Despite the achievement, one expert said the feat would barely cause a ripple among the mainstream bicycle community

There’s few reference points so it’s difficult to know how impressive this is or isn’t, said Daniel Friebe, a sports writer who covers professional cycling.

One of the world land speed records on a bike was by Fred Rompelberg, a Dutch guy who did 286 km/h

He was towed and then drafted [in the slipstream] behind a car for about a kilometre in order to qualify. That was an incredible speed, but people were in agreement that he was not in great shape for a bike ride, and I suspect the latest case will be viewed in a similar way.”

Twitter opening office in Hong Kong

Social media giant Twitter will open an office in Hong Kong next year

Social media giant Twitter has said it will open an office in Hong Kong in the first quarter of 2015

The messaging service has been banned from operating in China since 2009 over fears that it could be used to organise protests against the government

However,Twitter said it wanted to tap into the next phase of its growth in the Asian region by expanding in Greater China.

The office will house sales staff and joins the likes of Google and Facebook

Our upcoming Hong Kong office in the first quarter will enable us to pursue strategic opportunities in Greater China, such as China export advertising market, Hong Kong and Taiwan advertising markets, media partnerships, and our new Twitter Fabric integrated with MoPub for mobile developers, the company told the BBC on Friday.

The opening would be Twitter’s fifth office in the region, with operations already in Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney

In August, Twitter said it was opening an office in Jakarta, with Indonesia being one of its biggest markets

With half of all internet, mobile and social media users worldwide in Asia today, we see many opportunities across the region a company spokesperson said.

News of the expansion comes as Twitter reported a disappointing 7% fall in timeline views per user a closely watched measure of engagement despite 23% growth in its user base in the third quarter last month

The company also said its fourth-quarter revenue might fall short of market expectations of $448.8mn (£283mn). New York-listed Twitter shares are down almost 36% this year

India hospital tackles rat epidemic

(bursa eskort) — More than 2,500 rats have been killed in the past few days

A government hospital in the central Indian city of Indore is trying to rid itself of tens of thousands of rats overrunning its premises.

Pest control workers say they have killed more than 2,500 rats at the Maharaja Yeshwantrao hospital so far.

Nearly 70,000 rats are believed to be hiding in about 8,000 rat-holes, city commissioner Sanjay Dubey told the BBC.

The hospital hired a pest control firm after instances of rodents damaging hospital equipment and biting patients.

Correspondents say the standard of cleanliness in many government hospitals is poor

Rats had become a massive problem here We’ve launched this campaign to rid the hospital of rats because they are present here in such large numbers Mr Dubey who ordered the rat-extermination drive told BBC Hindi

Sanjay Karmakar, chairman of the Lakshmi Fumigation and Pest Control Limited, which was given the job of killing the rats, said workers were leaving food like prawns, jaggery [solidified cane sugar], chickpeas and apples laced with poison near rat-holes to kill the rodents

The cost of ridding the hospital of rats has been put at 5.5m rupees ($89,511; £56,035).

Rats are very intelligent animals If they see a rat dropping dead after eating a food item, they would not touch it again That’s why we have to keep changing the menu daily Mr Karmakar said

He said that once the operation is complete, the hospital will be free of rats and other pests for several years. The same company says it killed 10,000 rats at the hospital 20 years ago

The 400 bed Maharaja Yeshwantrao is one of the biggest government hospitals in Indore. Its outpatient department is visited by nearly 1,000 people every day

Some Hindu religious leaders have opposed the drive to kills rats because Ganesha, the elephant god, rides a mouse

Christian threats tragic Charles

Prince Charles

Prince Charles has described threats to Christians in the Middle East as an indescribable tragedy

He made the comments in a message at the launch of a report by Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need

This report said that religious freedom had deteriorated in 55 of the 196 countries studied in recent months.

Prince Charles said events in Iraq and Syria, where civil war and Islamic State extremists have caused thousands to be displaced, were “heartbreaking”.

In Iraq, Christians have been driven out of their ancestral homes and maintain that “crimes against humanity” have been committed against them and Iraq’s other minorities – such as the Yazidis.

And in Syria, more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule.

The report claims that across the world, Christians remain the most persecuted religious minority, while Muslim countries predominate among states with the most serious violations of religious freedom.

During his message, the prince spoke of his mounting despair at the expulsion of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis from places in the Middle East that their ancestors had lived in for centuries.

“The horrendous and heartbreaking events in Iraq and Syria have brought the subject of religious freedom and persecution to the forefront of the world’s news,” Prince Charles said in his video message to those attending the report’s launch.

He added that such incidents were not isolated and found in “some, though not all” of the Middle East, Africa and in many countries across Asia.

“Thankfully, despite this bleak picture, there are inspirational people of different faiths, joining together to overcome division and hatred,” he said.

We do not want to be alarmist but we do want to tell the truth in this report about the degree to which minority groups – Yazidis, and indeed of course Christians, are being pushed out of their homelands”

“It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries.”

The prince said faith leaders had a responsibility to ensure that people within their own traditions respect people of other faiths.

And he called on governments to honour people’s rights to practise their faith.

The report’s findings said

The report also says that as Western Europe becomes more diverse, political and social tensions are rising between different faith and cultural groups

John Pontifex, who compiled the religious freedom report, says all faith communities need to work together to stand up for the right to worship in peace

We do not want to be alarmist but we do want to tell the truth in this report about the degree to which minority groups  Yazidis, and indeed of course Christians, are being pushed out of their homelands.

It is, in effect, a genocide. What more evidence does one need to point to it being a genocide

Russia Ukraine deal secures EU gas

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller (left) shakes hands with Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz head Andriy Kobolev after the agreement was signed

(escort16) — The deal will secure gas supplies to EU countries via Ukraine

Russia has agreed to resume gas supplies to Ukraine over the winter in a deal brokered by the European Union

The deal will also ensure gas supplies to EU countries via Ukraine are secure

There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

European Union energy chief Guenther Oettinger said he was confident that Ukraine would be able to afford to pay for the gas it needed

He added that the agreement might be the first glimmer of hope in easing tensions between Russian and Ukraine

We can say to the citizens of Europe that we can guarantee security of supply over the winter

This is an important step for our shared energy security in the European continent Mr Barroso said.

The deal follows months of talks between EU officials and the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers.

The terms include the EU acting as guarantor for Ukraine’s gas purchases from Russia and helping to meet outstanding debts.

The total package is worth $4.6bn (£2.87bn), with money coming from the International Monetary Fund as well as the EU. The total includes funds from existing accords with the EU and IMF

Unprecedented levels of EU aid will be disbursed in a timely manner, and the International Monetary Fund has reassured Ukraine that it can use all financial means at its disposal to pay for gas, the EC said in a statement.

“Further work with the international financial institutions on financial assistance to Ukraine, also in relation to gas supplies, will still continue. But all three sides are reassured that Ukraine will have the necessary financial means

Gas supplies were halted over late payments when Russia scrapped subsidies given to Ukraine for importing gas, meaning the price paid by Ukraine rose sharply

However, the backdrop to the row is Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow

I want to reassure you that Russia has always been a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe and other consumers

Although the impact of the gas ban has been relatively small, the onset of winter made the need for a deal more urgent.

Alexander Motyl, professor at Rutgers University-Newark, said the deal was good news for Ukraine because there was a distinct possibility that the population wouldn’t have enough heat for the winter

The agreement was also good news for European consumers, he told the BBC. However, he said it was too early to tell whether the deal might herald a breakthrough in Russian-Ukraine relations.

Ukraine has relied on Russia for around 50% of its gas. Despite storage facilities Ukraine has a winter shortfall of around 3 billion to 4 billion cubic metres of gas, analysts say.

Russia provides around a third of the European Union’s gas, about half of which is pumped via Ukraine.

Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak told a news conference that the deal secures supplies for Ukraine and Europe.

I want to reassure you that Russia has always been a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe and other consumers. It has been, is and will be a reliable supplier.

The autumn and winter period is safe (for Ukraine) and the supply to European consumers is also stable. We are convinced that our future relations will be constructive and that our agreements will be fulfilled he said

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said that the EU had agreed to serve as guarantor for the gas price Kiev would pay to Russia.

Ukraine will pay $378 per 1,000 cubic metres to the end of 2014, and $365 in the first quarter of 2015.

Mr Yatseniuk said Kiev was ready to pay off debts for gas immediately after any deal was signed.

A total of $1.45bn would be paid immediately, and another $1.65bn by the end of the year, he said.

Mr Novak insisted that Ukraine would still have to pay in advance for new deliveries

Mr Oettinger, who steps down as European energy commissioner on Friday, said: “We can say to the citizens of Europe that we can guarantee security of supply over the winter.”

Meanwhile, the French and German presidents said that they spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko on Thursday evening.

All four “have welcomed the conclusion of negotiations” the European heads said in a joint statement.