Saturday, October 2, 2010

Clean energy projects build a strong economy: Obama

President Barack Obama used his weekly video and audio address on Saturday to tout his administration’s efforts to strengthen the US economy by focusing on “clean energy.”

According to Obama, his administration’s promotion of clean energy technology will result in “hundreds of thousands of new American jobs by 2012.”

Those jobs include contractors to install energy-saving windows, factory workers building electric cars and hybrid trucks, and crews building and running wind farms and solar plants.

However Republican leaders, Obama said, are “promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway — even with all the jobs and potential that they hold.”

The president urged his listeners to not “go back to the failed energy policies that profited the oil companies but weakened our country.”

The White House’s Democratic allies are expected to suffer heavy losses in the November 2 mid-term election, which Republicans cast as a referendum on the sour US economy and high joblessness.

The 21-page “Pledge to America” released by opposition Republicans in September calls for increase access to domestic energy sources and opposition to what they describe as a national “cap-and-trade” energy tax.

Republicans have often derided Obama’s clean energy policies as “job killers,” and support oil offshore drilling and drilling in the Arctic, nuclear power plants, and coal-to-liquid technology.

US continues Pakistan missile attacks

The U.S. has sent a signal that it's unwilling to stop using missile attacks against suspected insurgents on Pakistan's northern frontier. Pakistani intelligence officials say an American missile attack today has killed eight suspected militants. The tactic is generally unpopular and tensions are heightened over recent border incursions by NATO.

Karzai gives pep speech to Afghan security forces

KABUL, Afghanistan – Preparing for the eventual exit of international forces, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Saturday on his own police and army to get ready to take charge of protecting and defending the nation.

Karzai's speech — upbeat with nationalistic themes — was an apparent move to bolster Afghanistan's image as a sovereign nation that must plan for its future despite its heavy reliance on international troops and aid. Karzai said U.S. and NATO forces will leave Afghanistan once they no longer feel the need to stay for their own national security interests.

When that happens, Afghans must be ready to protect the borders, the people and have good governance, Karzai said.

"Unfortunately today we do not have this capacity and capability," he said at the presidential palace where he promoted 28 members of the Afghan police, army and intelligence service.

Karzai cautioned the 100 members of the security forces in the audience not to rely on a longtime presence of international forces — that they should use the current time to bolster their capacity.

"It is possible that one day this international community, which is with us today, will not see a benefit in Afghanistan any more and leave us — like they left us in the past," Karzai said. "What then is the task of the Afghan people, the Afghan government and the Afghan armed forces? Maintaining and developing the national interests of our country."

Karzai's speech recounted three decades of history in Afghanistan, including U.S. efforts to arm the mujahedeen in the 1980s, which helped speed the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. Afterward, however, Afghanistan's international allies did not continue to help.

"The U.S., Britain, France and many other countries closed their embassies in Afghanistan because they didn't see any more benefit to being here after the jihad victory over the Soviets," he said.

The country then slipped into a civil war and turmoil that created an opening eventually filled by the Taliban, which provided a safe haven for al-Qaida. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States — carried out by al-Qaida terrorists trained in Afghanistan — the U.S. invaded the country it had once helped liberate.

Separately on Saturday, officials announced nine drug traffickers have been sentenced to up to 17 years and given stiff fines by the Primary Court of the Criminal Justice Task Force for trafficking 41 pounds (19 kilograms) of heroin, 968 pounds (440 kilograms) of opium and 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of hashish.

Khalilu Rahman Motawakel, a spokesman for the task force, said the longest sentence was handed down to three traffickers from Helmand province in the south. The announcement was seen as part of Afghanistan's effort to demonstrate it is cracking down on the illegal drug trade, which is a major source of revenue for the country's insurgency.

Also in the restive south, coalition forces said they found more than 1,000 pounds (460 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate in a village in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province on Friday. They said more than 20 homemade bombs could have been made with the amount of material discovered.

It was the second significant find of bomb-making material in Arghandab in two days. On Thursday, forces found more than 2,400 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of the same material.

NATO forces last week began an operation called "Dragon Strike" in areas around Kandahar to flush out militants and destroy their strongholds.

Six insurgents were killed by coalition troops Friday in Kandahar's Zhari district. Security forces also defused two rockets and found explosive materials and gunpowder, according to the office of the Kandahar governor.

Pakistan's Children at risk

Dawn Editorial
In the event of a disaster, groups that are already disadvantaged, such as women and children, become even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In the post-flood situation, apart from the victims’ immediate needs such as shelter, food and medical attention, the protection of children is also a major concern.

According to Unicef, out of the 20 million or so people affected by the floods, over half are children. A report by the agency on the floods’ effect on children says that “children have been or are at risk of being separated from their families, they are at risk of abuse … and have witnessed death and destruction”. There are also reports that boys from flood-affected families are being lured into prostitution in some parts.

In the aftermath of natural calamities worldwide we have witnessed elements taking advantage of children. After the January earthquake in Haiti some American missionaries were convicted of illegally transporting a busload of Haitian children into the Dominican Republic without any paperwork. In Pakistan, after the 2005 earthquake the adoption of children was banned to prevent the risk of child abductions. Though people may be well-intentioned in wanting to take children away from the scene of tragedy, it doesn’t justify ignoring due process. In the current scenario the trafficking and abuse of children cannot be ignored as the state grapples with the post-flood situation. In present conditions, protecting the welfare and rights of minors is more important than ever as the chances of their exploitation are far greater considering that the whole social structure in many parts of the country has collapsed. Vigilance is key in this regard.

The state and society — especially rights organisations — must play a proactive role in ensuring the safety of children so that they are kept from harm. It is also important that a child protection law is passed and implemented at the federal level. Presently, such a law only exists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is essential that the federal government passes a law that can protect children from all forms of abuse both in times of crises and otherwise.

China's national day

61st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China

North Korean army celebrate the re-election

The North Korean army celebrate the re-election of the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il as General Secretary of the Worker's party of Korea in Pyongyang.

Pakistan army chief demands removal of Zardari loyalists from cabinet

Pakistan's army chief,General Ashfaq Kayani, has handed a list of corrupt or allegedly incompetent ministers to President Asif Ali Zardari, demanding their removal, according to western and Pakistani officials.

The tension between Pakistan's civilian and military leaders is the latest political fallout from historic floods that have triggered stringent criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.

Much of the controversy centres on Zardari, who brought scorn on himself by visiting a family chateau in France as the floods gathered pace in August – a move advisers admit was a public relations disaster.

A senior western official confirmed reports that the army chief had asked the president to remove named loyalists from his 60-member cabinet as part of an internal reform process. The official did not give the requested names.

Analysts said the army stance reflected a broader public impatience with the government's performance. An opinion poll taken last July gave Zardari a 20% popularity rating.

"The way things are configured now, everyone – the army, the institutions, the man on the street – would like to see some kind of shakeup in the current government," said Cyril Almeida of

But he added: "I don't think it will work. The more pressure you pile on Zardari, the more likely he is to dig in his heels."

Over the past week the country's political classes have been seized by a wave of rumours about an army intervention in politics, ranging from the installation of a Bangladesh-style technocratic government, to the removal of Zardari, to a straightforward coup.

A close Zardari aide denied that the army was pressuring the government. "It's absolute rubbish. This is a rumour-driven crisis, driven by those with a pathological hatred of president Zardari and the PPP. They have been predicting his downfall from the day he was elected. And they have been wrong," he said.

Some of the tension was punctured on Monday after Zardari and the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, met the army chief, General Kayani, after which they released an anodyne statement about flood relief.

Osama bin Laden waded into the debate yesterday, criticising relief efforts in Pakistan and calling for action against climate change.

Describing the plight of Pakistanis after the floods, he said:"Millions of children are out in the open air, lacking basic elements of living, including drinking water, resulting in their bodies shedding liquids and subsequently their death."

Zardari's woes are complicated by the hostility he faces from the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. Few see it as a coincidence that the supreme court this week resurrected its efforts to have Swiss authorities prosecute Zardari on corruption charges.

Talk of a coup, however, seems unlikely. The army is still smarting from the damage to its reputation caused by the rule of General Pervez Musharraf, who is now plotting a political comeback.

And there is little appetite for unconstitutional change from British and US officials. Two senior diplomats said that, flawed as the Zardari government was, the preferred course of action was for the present government to see out its five-year term. It has so far served two and a half years.

"That's the only way to bring long-term stability," said one official.

Zardari's aide said reports of army interference were exaggerated. "They have a legitimate input into national security. But to their credit the leadership have been very careful in nurturing democracy this time."

Almeida said: "Anyone trying to change the political setup in Pakistan has to look at two things: the cost of that change, and what you will replace it with.

"Right now they can't come up with a good answer to either of those. The cost of removing Zardari is too high."

US says sorry for 'outrageous and abhorrent' Guatemalan syphilis tests

The US today apologised for "outrageous and abhorrent" experiments in Guatemala by American doctors who infected hundreds of prisoners, soldiers and mental patients with syphilis in the 1940s.

The experiments were intended to test the use of penicillin, then an early antibiotic. Medical researchers sought out prostitutes with syphilis to deliberately pass on the sexually transmitted disease to men through intercourse. Other men were injected. Conducted between 1946 and 1948, the experiments were led by John Cutler, a US health service physician who would later be part of the notorious Tuskegee syphilis study in Alabama in the 1960s.

According to Susan Reverby, a Wellesley College professor who uncovered records of the experiment and thereby led to today's apology, Cutler chose Guatemala because he would not have been permitted to do the experiments in the US.

The researchers were interested in whether penicillin could prevent, not just cure, early syphilis infection.

"Cutler and the other physicians chose men in the Guatemala national penitentiary, then in an army barracks, and men and women in the national mental health hospital for a total of 696 subjects.

"Permissions were gained from the authorities but not from individuals, not an uncommon practice at the time, and supplies were offered to the institutions in exchange for access," Reverby wrote in a research paper.

"The doctors used prostitutes with the disease to pass it to the prisoners (since sexual visits were allowed by law in Guatemalan prisons) and then did direct inoculations made from syphilis bacteria poured onto the men's penises or on forearms and faces that were slightly abraded when the 'normal exposure' produced little disease, or in a few cases through spinal punctures."

Reverby said that the men were given penicillin after they had contracted the disease but it is not clear whether they were cured, and "not everyone received what was even then considered adequate treatment".

The US apologised in a joint statement by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, in which they described the experiments as "clearly unethical".

"Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologise to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices. The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the US, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala."

Guatemala said it would study whether there were grounds to take the case to an international court. "President Alvaro Colom considers these experiments crimes against humanity and Guatemala reserves the right to denounce them in an international court," said a government statement, which announced a commission to investigate.

Guatemalan rights activists called for the victims' families to be compensated, but a US official said it was not clear there would be any compensation.

The revelations have echoes of In the Tuskegee study over four decades from the 1930s, hundreds of African American men were left untreated after having contracted syphilis.

Emanuel's Departure Paves Way for Rouse Reign

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Distribution of relief items


The opposition in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday accused the provincial government of distributing relief goods among people on political grounds and depriving many deserving people of their rights.
Opposition lawmakers claimed that many flood affectees had yet still to receive relief supplies although the goods sent to them existed on record. They observed that foreign and local donors would not provide funds for flood affectees if their confidence was not restored.
During a debate on irregularities in aid distribution, opposition leader Akram Khan Durrani said foreign donors and our own people had no trust in the government and unless their confidence was restored no funds would come to the province.
Akram Durrani, who is a former chief minister, alleged that 4,000 blankets, 800 plastic shelters and 300 tents sent by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to the district coordination officer (DCO) for distribution among the affected people in Bannu had not reached the affectees.
He suggested formation of committees headed by MPAs to ensure transparency in the relief supplies’ distribution. He also proposed to the government to arrange seeds for distribution among farmers affected by floods.
JUI-F MPA Malik Muhammad Qasim said political interference and nepotism were rampant in the distribution process and genuine affec-tees were deprived of relief goods. He said some of the survivors were selling the relief goods in the market. He pointed out that figures on relief supplies were confusing.
Muhammad Javed Abbasi of the PML-N said foreign donors had no trust in the government as the federal government had shifted Rs40 billion meant for reconstruction of schools and roads damaged in the October 2005 earthquake to other projects.
He said misuse of funds had shut 6,927 schemes, affecting thousands of schoolchildren.The assembly passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial Relations Bill 2010 to make laws relating to formation of trade unions and regulation and improvement of relations between employers and workers.
In the question-hour session, seven questions lapsed due to the absence of the concerned lawmakers. Javed Abbasi and Nighat Yasmin Orakzai objected to appointment of Class-IV employees who were not locals.
Nighat Orakzai, who is PML-Q deputy parliamentary leader, criticised local police for arresting Aman Lashkar volunteers fighting against militants in their respective areas in rural Peshawar without any reason and implicating them in false cases. She appreciated the Lashkar volunteers for their services in combating terrorism.
She stressed it was a serious issue and action be taken against the police for arresting the Lashkar’s men. Law Minister Arshad Abdullah said he would take the police version and then comment on the issue.
Replying to an adjournment motion tabled by JUI-F member Shah Hussain, Minister for Primary Education Sardar Hussain Babak said his department had not issued any notification regarding the withdrawal of 20 additional marks to a hafiz or hafiza at the time of admission in an educational institution.
In his call attention notice, the PML-N’s Javed Abbasi said over 500 people were illegally appointed without any test and interview to various posts in the Ayub Medical Complex, Abbottabad. The call attention notice was placed pending, as the minister for health was not present. The speaker adjourned the sitting till Monday.

CNN fires host Rick Sanchez

CNN host Rick Sanchez came under fire Friday after making controversial remarks the previous day on a satellite radio show.

Sanchez called out Comedy Central host Jon Stewart as a "bigot" for mocking him, and complained that Jews — like Stewart — don't face discrimination. He also suggested that CNN, and perhaps the media industry more broadly, is run by Jews and elitists who look down on Hispanics like himself.

Clearly, those comments didn't sit well with the network, which put out a terse statement around 6 p.m. Friday.

"Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company," the CNN statement read. "We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well."

So far, Sanchez hasn't spoken out about the explosive interview Thursday on "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick." On the radio show, the now-former CNN star didn't just make a single impolitic statement, but spoke at length — for roughly 20 minutes — about Stewart and a media world he believes to be filled with "elite Northeast liberals" who consider Hispanic journalists "second tier." Sanchez is a Cuban-American.

He specifically called out Stewart as someone with "a white liberal establishment point-of-view" who "can't relate to a guy like me." Also, Sanchez claimed that Stewart is "upset that someone of my ilk is at, almost, his level."

Sanchez also has yet to address the controversy via Twitter, where he is a frequent user. He even made the social media platform a signature part of his afternoon show, "Rick's List." Sanchez didn't appear on his 3 p.m. show on Friday, but CNN's public relations department put out word that he was going to be at a book signing at the CNN Center in Atlanta. It's unclear whether he attended it.

Sanchez joined CNN in 2004 after working as an anchor in Miami. Prior to that, Sanchez worked as a correspondent at MSNBC, providing breaking news updates at CNBC, and at other local stations.