Monday, September 7, 2009

President Barack Obama Back to School Event
The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Bara peace conditions

The Statesman

Named as ‘Biya daraghlam’, the Bara military operation entered into its 7th day on Monday. The security forces used Air Force jets and the gunship helicopters in remote parts of the tribal Khyber Agency to hit the training camps and the hideouts of the militants. Partly due to the operation getting prolonged but chiefly due to the strafing, a mediatory jirga comprising members of the local peace committee and tribal elders met the political tehsildar of Bara to see if the operation could be brought to an early end. Remarkable thing about the Bara parleys was that the political administration on its part did not show any indecent haste in initiating any move to slow down, put off or stop the operation. The administration told the jirga that before concluding any peace deal the militants will have to surrender 68 of their accomplices most wanted by the law enforcing agencies. Moreover, they will acknowledge the writ of the government and not use FM transmitters or publicly carry arms. The administration also told the jirga that as punishment for the breach of previous peace agreement and as surety for the future deal, the amount of fine had been enhanced from Rs30 to 60 million.
Bara was once the hub of peaceful trade activities. Visitors from outside envied the prosperity of the traders, the general rush on roadside stalls of food and drinks the activism of transporters. The entire stretch of road was so peaceful that a teenager in the middle of night could drive alone up to Bara and back. So sudden indeed has been the twist in the turn of events that a group of friends armed with guns would now think twice before travelling to Bara even at midday. The mediatory jirga should meet the government demands at the earliest so that the displaced persons can return home soon and celebrate the Eidul Fitr with their near and dear ones.

Afghan President Accuses US of Trying to Undermine Him

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he believes the United States is denouncing his family and political allies in an effort to undermine his position.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro published Monday, Mr. Karzai said the United States is using "underhanded" tactics to undermine him.

He said he believed that recent U.S. criticism of his running mate, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, was actually aimed at him. He also said accusations that his brother is corrupt are unfounded.

Mr. Karzai also said there might have been incidents of fraud during last month's presidential election. But he dismissed them as "inevitable" in a newly created democracy.

Earlier Monday, a report in a major U.S. newspaper outlined allegations of massive vote fraud committed to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai win re-election.

The New York Times quoted unnamed Afghan and Western officials as saying Mr. Karzai's supporters created as many as 800 fake polling stations that produced hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes.

The newspaper says the votes counted for Mr. Karzai at some polling stations may be 10 times higher than the number of people who actually voted.

Meanwhile, the Karzai campaign has accused other candidates of manipulating votes.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission says votes from nearly 500 polling stations across the country have been invalidated due to allegations of widespread fraud.

The commission also says it will have to clear 650 serious complaints before the results of the voting can be certified this month.

Partial election results show Mr. Karzai has 48.6 percent of the vote, while his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah has 31.7 percent. The count is based on returns from about 75 percent of the country's polling sites.

A candidate needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.

Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission has received more than 2,000 allegations of fraud or abuse from the August 20 presidential election. It says that some of the complaints, if true, would affect the final result.

Once there is a clear winner, international leaders are expected to convene a United Nations conference to discuss Afghanistan's future. A formal call for such a meeting has now been made by Britain, France and Germany.

Sudanese journalist jailed after refusing to pay fine for wearing trousers
The Sudanese woman put on trial for wearing trousers was spared the lash yesterday but was sent to jail after refusing to pay a £130 fine imposed for indecency.

Lubna Hussein, 34, a widow whose trial exposed draconian Islamic laws in Sudan, was taken to prison in the same trousers that she wore when she was arrested with 12 other women at a Khartoum restaurant in July.

“I will not pay a penny, I’d rather go to prison,” she declared after hearing the verdict. She will serve a one-month sentence in Omdurman.

The judge, who was aware of the worldwide interest in the case, tried to be lenient. His punishment fell short of the maximum penalty under Article 152 of Sudan’s penal code, which prescribes 40 lashes and an unlimited fine for women dressed in an indecent or obscene manner in public.

Ten of the other women arrested with Ms Hussein had pleaded guilty to the charge of indecency already and been flogged. Unlike thousands of other women arrested in similar circumstance every year, Ms Hussein, a journalist who worked for the United Nations, refused to accept her summary punishment.

“Lubna has bravely sacrificed her freedom to free other women from the oppression of the law,” Ahmed Elzobier, one of Ms Hussein’s supporters, said. “She is not guilty but the police, the court and the Government are the guilty ones. Although Lubna is going to prison, the rest of her supporters will keep challenging these laws.”

The strict law was implemented in 1991 by President al-Bashir, two years after he took power in an Islamist-inspired coup. A peace agreement in 2005, signed between Khartoum and the southern rebels, enshrined human rights in the constitution, prompting campaigners, including Amnesty International, to call for the repeal of Article 152.

At the hearing yesterday dozens of men in traditional Islamic clothing confronted about 150 of Ms Hussein’s mostly female supporters.

As the women chanted “No to whipping!” the men shouted that women in trousers were prostitutes and demanded harsh punishment for Ms Hussein. Riot police intervened and about 40 women were arrested and later released. At least one woman was taken to hospital after being beaten.

Ms Hussein has been using the website Facebook to rally worldwide support.

Obama exhorts kids to pay attention in school

In a speech that drew fire even before he delivered it, President Barack Obama is telling the nation's schoolchildren he "expects great things from each of you."

"At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world," Obama said. "And none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities."

The White House posted Obama's remarks on its Web site at midday Monday. He's scheduled to deliver the talk from Wakefield High School in suburban Arlington, Va., Tuesday. It will be broadcast live on C-SPAN and on the White House Web site.

Obama's planned talk has proven controversial, with several conservative organizations and individuals accusing him of trying to pitch his arguments too aggressively in a local-education setting. White House officials, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have said the allegations are silly.

In a Labor Day speech in Cincinnati, Obama mentioned his upcoming address. "I'm going to have something to say tomorrow to our children telling them to stay in school and work hard 'cause that's the right message to send."

"It's a sad state of affairs that many in this country politically would rather start an "Animal House" food fight rather than inspire kids to stay in school, to work hard, to engage parents to stay involved, and to ensure that the millions of teachers that are making great sacrifices continue to be the best in the world," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. "It's a sad state of affairs."

In the prepared remarks, Obama tells young people that all the work of parents, educators and others won't matter "unless you show up to those schools, pay attention to those teachers."

Obama made no reference in his prepared remarks to the uproar surrounding his speech. Nor did he make an appeal for support of tough causes like health care reform. He used the talk to tell kids about his at-times clumsy ways as a child and to urge them to identify an area of interest, set goals and work hard to achieve them.

The president also warned students that if they quit on school, "you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country."

Obama acknowledged that "being successful is hard," but told the students the country badly needs their best effort to cope in an increasingly competitive global economy.

"What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country," Obama says. "What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future."

The president noted that he was raised by a single mother, who made him buckle down and work harder at times. He said he's glad she did.

Some conservatives have urged schools and parents to boycott the address. They say Obama is using the opportunity to promote a political agenda.

Schools don't have to show the speech. And some districts have decided not to, partly in response to concerns from parents.

Duncan's department has also taken heat for proposed lesson plans distributed to accompany the speech.

On Sunday, the secretary acknowledged that a section about writing to the president on how students can help him meet education goals was poorly worded. It has been changed.

"We just clarified that to say write a letter about your own goals and what you're going to do to achieve those goals," Duncan said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Former Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush delivered similar speeches to students, the White House has said.

Many adults cannot read, write.

PESHAWAR: People across the country will celebrate International Literacy Day today (September 8) with special focus on literacy needs. This year, International Literacy Day will put the spotlight on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and social development. Literacy and Empowerment is the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations. Public and private departments will mark the day with seminars, workshops and conferences to highlight the importance of literacy. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Despite many and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: some 776 million adults lack minimum literacy skills which means that one in five adults is still not literate; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. September 08 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. It was first celebrated in 1966. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all, children, youth and adults is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. Education is the main vehicle for socio-economic development but, unfortunately about half of adult population in Pakistan cannot read and write. Pakistan is sixth most populous country of the world. Due to rapid population growth and inability of the formal education system to bring all children into school, illiterate population has increased from 22 million in 1961 to 48 million by 2005. It is feared that by 2015, illiterate population in Pakistan may rise to 52 million. In the area of education, Pakistan is lagging behind other countries of South Asia, even lower than Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives. Pakistan has been spending less on education as compared to other countries in the region. According to Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2008 by UNESCO, Pakistan is spending 2.4 per cent of its GDP on education against the UNESCO recommended norm of a minimum of 4 per cent and against 3.8 per cent spent by India, 7.5 per cent by Maldives, 4.7 per cent by Iran and 3.4 per cent by Nepal. Out of 2.4 per cent only 1.93 per cent of GNP is being spent on education in real terms and only 11 per cent of the total education budget is allocated for the higher education sector. The total education budget is needed to be increased to a minimum of six per cent as recommended by UNESCO for developing countries with at least one-third of it going to the higher education sector. Though, 16 major political parties of the country on February 5 this year had committed in a Joint Declaration on “Education For All in Pakistan” to increase the present allocation of the education budget from 2.4 per cent to 4 per cent of the GDP within the next three years. But the ruling coalition contrary to its claims after coming into power slashed 5.7 billion from the fourth quarter of the last year’s budget of Higher Education Commission (HEC). The unexpected cut in the HEC’s budget badly affected the universities which had no savings and even the salaries for the months of April and May 2008 had been paid after withdrawing money from Pension Funds, Students Fund, Reserve Fund and taking loans. Literacy is the ability to read, write, listen and comprehend, and speak a language. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication or at a level that lets one understand and communicate abstract ideas. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted a definition of literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

Pakistan has highest school dropout rate in world.

PESHAWAR: Pakistan has one of the highest school dropout rates in the world, thanks to corporal punishment. Beatings at school are considered culturally acceptable to ensure obedience, and legislation banning this practice is hence poorly implemented. According to a NGO advocating the rights of children, 35,000 high school pupils in Pakistan drop out of the education system each year due to corporal punishment.Such beatings at schools are also responsible for one of the highest dropout rates in the world, which stands at 50 percent during the first five years of education. It is said that culturally accepted form of child abuse also contributed to the high dropout rate among children and the fact that 70,000 street children were present in the country. Yet, despite growing awareness regarding the issue, many schoolteachers remain convinced that some degree of corporal punishment is necessary to instruct children. “The teacher needs to ensure obedience and ensure children receive proper guidance. For this, an occasional light beating or other physical admonishment is necessary,” Abdul Akbar, 40, who teaches at a boy's private school at Hayatabad, told The Frontier Post. The government of the NWFP had banned corporal punishment in primary schools in 1999. A year later, the governments of Balochistan and Punjab issued directives to all teachers not to use corporal punishment on children, and followed up with disciplinary action against three teachers. The Sindh government also issued similar orders in 2007. But the fact is that, despite a campaign at government level and awareness-raising efforts by NGOs, the directives remain poorly implemented. Most children at schools across the country, both girls and boys, are beaten. "The law, as it exists now, permits parents or guardians, including teachers, to beat a child in “good intent”. This prevented police from acting on complaints of physical abuse. It is also a matter of attitude. Teachers say they need to beat children to teach them, but there is a need to educate teachers and pupils about child rights. In 2005, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with Save the Children and the Pakistan government, conducted the first in-depth survey to determine how many children were subjected to corporal punishment. All 3,582 children interviewed said they had been beaten at school. Seven percent said they had suffered serious injury as a consequence. It is widely believed the situation is even worse at the hundreds of unregulated seminary schools, or `madrasas’, scattered across Pakistan. The Pakistan Paediatric Association found last year that over 88 percent of school-going children surveyed reported suffering physical abuse. Experts believe inadequate teacher training, the lack of legislation banning corporal punishment and the perception that it must be used to teach children, are all factors behind the widespread existence of corporal punishment.

Four killed in drone attack in North Waziristan

MIRANSHAH: A US missile hit a house and a religious school in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border Monday killing at least four people and wounding six others, security officials said.

'The strike targetted a madrassa and an adjoining house in Machikhel village in North Waziristan,' a Pakistani security official told AFP.

'At least four people were killed and six others injured,' the official said. Two other security officials in the area also confirmed that the missile was fired from a US drone. The identities of the victims were not immediately clear.

A local administration official said that the local tribesmen had cordoned off the destroyed house and madrassa and were searching for bodies.

Washington alleges Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion are holed up in the semi-autonomous tribal belt.

The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.

Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack on August 5 in neighbouring South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan at ‘extreme food security risk’

PARIS: Most of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are facing extreme or high risk of food shortages, according to a Food Security Risk Index ranking of 148 nations.

Pakistan, ranked 11th on the index, is at ‘extreme risk’, while Bangladesh and India are both at ‘high risk’, ranked 20th and 25th.

The United States is least at risk followed by France, Canada, Germany and the Czech Republic, according to the study by Maplecroft, a Britain-based firm that provides risk intelligence for businesses.

Food stress jumped towards the top of the global agenda after soaring commodity prices in 2007 and 2008 sparked riots in 30 countries, including many tottering on the brink of severe shortages or widespread hunger.

The World Bank estimates that food inflation during the period pushed an additional 100 million people into deep poverty, on top of a billion that were already scraping by on less than a dollar a day.

Poverty was a major source of food vulnerability, but not the only one, said the new report.

‘Food security is also affected by agricultural development, trade flows, foreign aid as well as government policies on nutrition,’ said Alyson Warhurst, a professor at Warwick Business School and co-director of Maplecroft.

‘Added to these are the impacts of population growth and climate change,’ she told AFP.

The five countries topping the risk list —Angola, Haiti, Mozambique, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo —are all mired in poverty, but other factors also boost vulnerability.

‘India may be one of the world’s key emerging economies, but it is finding itself under increasing pressure from food security issues,’ the report concluded.

Two-thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people depend on farming as their main income source.

But acreage of land under cultivation has dropped by more than a fifth since August last year, because of dwindling water resources, deforestation and an uneven rainy season in July this year.

The Indian government has said it will soon introduce a National Food Security Act to ensure adequate distribution of food.

‘But the Indian government will need to overcome challenges to distribution as well as financing the subsidies,’ said Fiona Place, a senior risk analyst at Maplecroft. China, Russia and Brazil —the other three major emerging economies —all face medium risk, ranking between 100 and 114 on the index.

In China, food self-sufficiency and avoiding price and supply shocks have long been national policy. In addition, Beijing has in recent years bought huge tracts of arable land in Africa to grow staple crops for consumption back home.

The US and France rank highest in food security in large measure because of their status as the world’s top two exporters of cereals, the study said

Woman faces up to 40 lashes for wearing pants

CNN -- The trial of a woman who wore clothing that Sudan deemed indecent got under way Monday.Throngs of people waited outside the courthouse in the Khartoum as Lubna al-Hussein made her way in. In addition to the group of lawyers defending her, al-Hussein is also being represented by two Egyptian defense attorneys, she said.
Al-Hussein faces up to 40 lashes for wearing pants considered too tight and a blouse deemed too sheer.She insisted on going on trial in order to have the law deemed unconstitutional, her lawyer said.Al-Hussein -- a journalist who worked for the media department of the United Nations mission in Sudan -- resigned from her U.N. position to avoid the immunity afforded to international workers.Her trial has been delayed once before, which "disappointed" her, said her lawyer Nadil Adib."She wanted to have her case tried in order to clear her name and have the law announced unconstitutional," he said.The human rights organization Amnesty International called for the charges to be dropped."The manner in which this law has been used against women is unacceptable, and the penalty called for by the law -- up to 40 lashes -- abhorrent," Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa program, said in a statement.Al-Hussein was arrested along with 18 other women on July 3 at a Khartoum restaurant when police burst in and checked women for their clothing."I don't think she was targeted specifically," Adib said. "They attack public and private parties and groups. They are called 'morality police' and she was just a victim of a round-up." Put your questions to Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali here.At the time of her arrest, she said, she was wearing pants, a blouse and a hijab, or head scarf. Police accused her of wearing trousers that were too tight and a blouse that was too sheer, she said.Scores of protesters gathered outside the courtroom in Khartoum to support al-Hussein in early August, when she was last scheduled to be tried.The demonstrators carried banners and wore headbands with the messages, "No return to the dark ages" and "No to suppressing women." Others demanded an amendment to the country's public order law that human rights activists say is vague on what constitutes indecent dress.U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is concerned about al-Hussein's case.
"The United Nations will make every effort to ensure that the rights of its staff members are protected," Ban said in July. "The flogging is against the international human rights standards. I call on all parties to live up to their obligations under all relevant international instruments."

Roadside bomb hits army convoy, two dead

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Intelligence and army officials say a powerful roadside bomb has killed two Pakistani soldiers in a militant stronghold near the Afghan border.
The three officials say two soldiers also were wounded Monday when the bomb went off near the convoy traveling from Shakai to Wana, the main town in South Waziristan tribal region.

The officials, two of whom work for Pakistani intelligence, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media on the record.

Pakistan has deployed thousands of troops in its northwest to flush out Taliban, al-Qaida and their local supporters. The militants are suspected of using Pakistan as a safe haven to plan attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.