Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Anti-cancer virus' shows promise

An engineered virus, injected into the blood, can selectively target cancer cells throughout the body in what researchers have labelled a medical first.

The virus attacked only tumours, leaving the healthy tissue alone, in a small trial on 23 patients, according to the journal Nature.

Researchers said the findings could one day "truly transform" therapies.

Cancer specialists said using viruses showed "real promise".

Using viruses to attack cancers is not a new concept, but they have needed to be injected directly into tumours in order to evade the immune system.

Smallpox to cancer
Scientists modified the vaccinia virus, which is more famous for being used to develop a smallpox vaccine.

The virus, named JX-594, is dependent upon a chemical pathway, common in some cancers, in order to replicate.

It was injected at different doses into the blood of 23 patients with cancers which had spread to multiple organs in the body.In the eight patients receiving the highest dose, seven had the virus replicating in their tumours, but not in healthy tissue.

Prof John Bell, lead researcher and from the University of Ottawa, said: "We are very excited because this is the first time in medical history that a viral therapy has been shown to consistently and selectively replicate in cancer tissue after intravenous infusion in humans.

"Intravenous delivery is crucial for cancer treatment because it allows us to target tumours throughout the body as opposed to just those that we can directly inject."

Infection prevented further tumour growth in six patients for a time. However, the virus did not cure cancer. Patients were given only one dose of the virus as the trial was designed to test the safety of the virus.

It is thought that the virus could be used to deliver treatments directly to cancerous cells in high concentrations.

Prof Bell acknowledges that the research is still in the very early stages, but he said: "I believe that some day, viruses and other biological therapies could truly transform our approach for treating cancer."

Cancer Research UK's Prof Nick Lemoine, also director of Barts Cancer Institute, said: "Viruses that multiply in just tumour cells - avoiding healthy cells - are showing real promise as a new biological approach to target hard-to-treat cancers.

"This new study is important because it shows that a virus previously used safely to vaccinate against smallpox in millions of people can now be modified to reach cancers through the bloodstream - even after cancer has spread widely through the patient's body.

"It is particularly encouraging that responses were seen even in tumours like mesothelioma, a cancer which can be particularly hard to treat."

Report: Up to $60 Billion Wasted in Iraq, Afghanistan


The United States' extensive outsourcing of military functions in war zones has been controversial since the beginning of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A report by the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting has heightened concerns with details of allegations of billions of dollars lost due to waste and corruption.

To lessen wartime strains on America’s all-volunteer military force, the Pentagon hires private businesses to provide a vast array of support services.
Reliance on contractors expanded drastically during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, feeding what is now a large for-profit military industry funded by U.S. taxpayers.

The commission's co-chairman, Michael Thibault says not all of the money has been well-spent.

“Total spending on contract and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to $206 billion. We estimate that $31-$60 billion of that total has been or is being lost to waste and fraud,” said Thibault.

At a news conference Wednesday, Thibault stressed that the commission's aim is not to attack the reputations of individual contractors, but rather to identify problems in the government’s contracting process. He says many problems have been identified.

“The cost of contract support has been unnecessarily high. [The U.S.] government has not effectively managed contracts to promote competition, reward good performance, and impose accountability for poor performance and misconduct by both government and contractor personnel,” Thibault said.

As an example of counter-productive efforts, the commission alleges that some U.S. funds for construction projects in Afghanistan wound up in the hands of insurgents battling American troops.

Contractors do everything from serving meals to troops to building power plants and guarding diplomats.

The commission urges an overhaul of government contracting procedures in war zones, and even phasing out the use of contractors for certain functions.

The other commission co-chairman is former Congressman Christopher Shays.

“The way forward demands reform. With tens of billions of dollars already wasted, with the prospect of more to follow, and with the risk of re-creating these problems the next time America faces a contingency, denial and delay are not good options,” said Shays.
Questions surrounding private military contractors are not new. In 2007, Congress held hearings on allegations that contractors targeted Iraqi civilians with excessive and reckless force. Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater, a well-known military contracting firm, denied any wrongdoing by his employees.

“I disagree with the assertion that they acted like cowboys,” Prince said.

Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia says the commission’s report is a call to action for Congress. “These recommendations will be listened to and, when appropriate, acted on by the United States Congress,” Webb said.

In May, the Congressional Research Service reported that the United States had 155,000 private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 145,000 uniformed personnel.

Militant wing in political parties not to be tolerated: Gilani

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday pledged to take across the board action against anti-social elements without showing any leniency to them for restoring peace to Karachi.

The prime minister said this while addressing a large gathering of people including notables of the area, party workers and office bearers at the Circuit House.

The prime minister said that any criminal, terrorist, or militant if found guilty of killing innocent people in Karachi would be sternly punished.

Gilani said "we would not tolerate militant wing in any party".

The Prime Minister expressed the resolve to remove the sense of deprivation of the people of under-developed areas, which remained neglected in the past.

He recalled that the sense of deprivation prevailed among the people of Dhaka before 1971. The country would not have witnessed break-up had the voice from Dhaka was heard and proper steps taken to end their sense of deprivation, he added.

The Prime Minister said that there was a sense of deprivation among the people of southern Punjab. The people wanted their rights protected and "we will support them to remove their six-decade long sense of deprivation. It is our responsibility to act in accordance with their aspirations," he added.

He said that some people were issuing statements to weaken the stance of the people of southern Punjab. Some people had objected to the word 'Seraiki' but flower would give fragrance no matter what name it was given, he added.

He said that the government was moving forward in the right direction and would solve all the problems of people.

Prime Minister Gilani said that a new era of revolutionary development would usher in the area. It pace of development would match with that in other parts of Punjab, he added.

Zardari pledges closer cooperation with China in fighting terrorism

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that his country will cooperate more closely with China in fighting terrorism during a visit to west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, an area that has recently weathered deadly terrorist attacks.Zardari made the statement here Tuesday during a meeting with Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang's top official.
Zardari came to Urumqi to attend the first China-Eurasia Expo, which will be held from Sept. 1 to 5.Zardari stated that Pakistan opposes any terrorist activities and will work more closely with China in combating terrorism.Xinjiang's city of Kashgar, which is located near Pakistan's northeastern border, suffered two terrorist attacks in July.
Local officials previously said that an initial probe linked the two attacks to a group of religious extremists headed by militants who were trained in camps run by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The militants then entered Xinjiang to plot terrorist attacks.
The ETIM is a cross-border terrorist organization recognized by both Beijing and the U.N.

Minister snapped leaving No 10 with Afghan memo


A senior minister has accidentally revealed a UK government briefing document "welcoming" the departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was photographed clutching the note as he left No 10.

It said the UK should "publicly and privately" approve Mr Karzai's decision not to seek a third term in 2014.

In response, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the memo was "pretty low level", adding "these things happen".

Mr Mitchell was photographed leaving Downing Street following a meeting of the National Security Council - in which ministers discussed Libya, Afghanistan and a range of other issues.

The BBC's Political Correspondent Robin Brant said Mr Mitchell immediately realised he had mistakenly displayed confidential briefing papers and told an aide "it is nothing top secret".

The document says: "Note that Karzai has publicly stated his intention to step down at the end of his second term as per the constitution. This is very important. It improves Afghanistan's political prospects very significantly. We should welcome Karzai's announcement in private and in public."It goes on to say: "Afghan perceptions of violence are very important for their confidence in their future, and for their readiness to work for the Afghan government.

"Have we got the strategic communications on levels of violence right?"

The document also discusses reforms to Afghanistan's banking sector and a planned IMF visit to the country.

The Department for International Development said the papers were "of a routine nature".

"They would have had a national security level marking of 'restricted' or 'confidential' if they contained anything of significant sensitivity," a spokesman said.

Mr Karzai was controversially re-elected to a second five-year term in 2009 after an election which was marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

Troubled relationship
Under the terms of the Afghan constitution, Mr Karzai is not allowed to stand for a third term - which means he will stand down in 2014.

There had been speculation he would try to continue in office beyond that date but he has confirmed he will not be seeking a third term.

Asked about Mr Mitchell's disclosure, Mr Hague said the memo was a "pretty low level briefing document within one department" and President Karzai had already made his intentions clear.

He added: "Of course we always look to presidents of a country, of all countries, to respect the constitution of their countries. It is as simple as that."

The Afghan leader's relationship with the UK and US has often been fraught, with critics urging him to do more to tackle corruption within his government.

But Nato forces in Afghanistan have said significant progress is being made in building up the capacity of the Afghan army and police as they take over greater responsibility for security.

The UK plans to withdraw the majority of its 9,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when its combat mission will come to an end.

Mr Mitchell is not the first person to be caught unawares by photographers outside No 10.

Former senior Metropolitan Police officer Bob Quick mistakenly revealed a secret terrorism document as he arrived at Downing Street in 2009.

He subsequently resigned, saying his position was "untenable".

In other similar cases, Treasury minister Danny Alexander was pictured last year holding a memo detailing the forecast scale of public sector job cuts while, in 2009, the then Labour Cabinet minister Caroline Flint inadvertently displayed a document which talked of a "property crisis".

Libya's interim leaders reject UN military personnel


Libya's interim leadership has rejected the idea of deploying any kind of international military force, the UN envoy to the country has said.

Ian Martin said the UN had considered the deployment of military observers.

Earlier, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the country did not need outside help to maintain security.

The news came as fighters loyal to the council approached the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte from east and west.

The town's defenders have been given until Saturday to surrender.

However, fugitive ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, rejected the ultimatum, the Associated Press reports.

"No dignified honourable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs," he said in a telephone call to the AP on Monday night.

Mr Ibrahim reiterated Col Gaddafi's offer to send his son Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government, the agency said.

Some U.S. firms paid more to CEOs than taxes: study

Twenty-five of the 100 highest paid U.S. CEOs earned more last year than their companies paid in federal income tax, a pay study said on Wednesday.

It also found many of the companies spent more on lobbying than they did on taxes.

At a time when lawmakers are facing tough choices in a quest to slash the national debt, the report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a left-leaning Washington think tank, quickly hit a nerve.

After reading it, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called for hearings on executive compensation.

In a letter to that committee's chairman, Republican Darrell Issa, Cummings asked "to examine the extent to which the problems in CEO compensation that led to the economic crisis continue to exist today."

He also asked "why CEO pay and corporate profits are skyrocketing while worker pay stagnates and unemployment remains unacceptably high," and "the extent to which our tax code may be encouraging these growing disparities."

In putting together its study, IPS chose to compare CEO pay to current U.S. taxes paid, excluding foreign and state and local taxes that may have been paid, as well as deferred taxes which can often be far larger than current taxes paid.

The group's rationale was that deferred taxes may or may not be paid, and that current U.S. taxes paid are the closest approximation in public documents to what companies may have actually written a check for last year.


Compensation for the 25 CEOs with pay surpassing corporate taxes averaged $16.7 million, according to the study, compared to a $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Among the companies topping the IPS list:

* eBay whose CEO John Donahoe made $12.4 million, but which reported a $131 million refund on its 2010 current U.S. taxes.

* Boeing, which paid CEO Jim McNerney $13.8 billion, sent in $13 million in federal income taxes, and spent $20.8 million on lobbying and campaign spending

* General Electric where CEO Jeff Immelt earned $15.2 million in 2010, while the company got a $3.3 billion federal refund and invested $41.8 million in its own lobbying and political campaigns.

Though the companies come from different industries, their tax breaks fall into two primary areas.

Two-thirds of the firms studied kept their taxes low by utilizing offshore subsidiaries in tax havens such as Bermuda, Singapore and Luxembourg. The remaining companies benefited from accelerated depreciation.

Shareholders have responded favorably when companies in which they invest keep a tax bill low through legal methods, thereby benefiting earnings. But Chuck Collins, an IPS senior scholar and co-author of the report, said that is a mistake.

"I think it's an exposure of weakness in a company if their profitability is dependent on their accounting department and not on making better widgets," he said.

In prior reports, Collins said, out-sized CEO pay was often a red flag of bigger problems to come. The IPS has been putting a pay report together for 18 years. Among those whose leaders have made the high pay list in years past, only to have their businesses falter: Tyco, Enron and WorldCom.

The New Resentment of the Poor


In a decade of frenzied tax-cutting for the rich, the Republican Party just happened to lower tax rates for the poor, as well. Now several of the party’s most prominent presidential candidates and lawmakers want to correct that oversight and raise taxes on the poor and the working class, while protecting the rich, of course.

These Republican leaders, who think nothing of widening tax loopholes for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates, are offended by the idea that people making less than $40,000 might benefit from the progressive tax code. They are infuriated by the earned income tax credit (the pride of Ronald Reagan), which has become the biggest and most effective antipoverty program by giving working families thousands of dollars a year in tax refunds. They scoff at continuing President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which is tilted toward low- and middle-income workers and expires in December.

Until fairly recently, Republicans, at least, have been fairly consistent in their position that tax cuts should benefit everyone. Though the Bush tax cuts were primarily for the rich, they did lower rates for almost all taxpayers, providing a veneer of egalitarianism. Then the recession pushed down incomes severely, many below the minimum income tax level, and the stimulus act lowered that level further with new tax cuts. The number of families not paying income tax has risen from about 30 percent before the recession to about half, and, suddenly, Republicans have a new tool to stoke class resentment.

Representative Michele Bachmann noted recently that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income tax; all of them, she said, should pay something because they benefit from parks, roads and national security. (Interesting that she acknowledged government has a purpose.) Gov. Rick Perry, in the announcement of his candidacy, said he was dismayed at the “injustice” that nearly half of Americans do not pay income tax. Jon Huntsman Jr., up to now the most reasonable in the Republican presidential field, said not enough Americans pay tax.

Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and several senators have made similar arguments, variations of the idea expressed earlier by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana that “everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”

This is factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong. First, the facts: a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes. Only 14 percent of households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution. The poorest fifth paid an average of 16.3 percent of income in taxes in 2010.

Economically, reducing the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — which would be required if everyone paid income taxes — makes no sense at a time of high unemployment. The credits, which only go to working people, have always been a strong incentive to work, as even some conservative economists say, and have increased the labor force while reducing the welfare rolls.

The moral argument would have been obvious before this polarized year. Nearly 90 percent of the families that paid no income tax make less than $40,000, most much less. The real problem is that so many Americans are struggling on such a small income, not whether they pay taxes. The two tax credits lifted 7.2 million people out of poverty in 2009, including four million children. At a time when high-income households are paying their lowest share of federal taxes in decades, when corporations frequently avoid paying any tax, it is clear who should bear a larger burden and who should not.

Blast In A Hazara Eidgah Kills 10; More Casualties Feared

A powerful bomb went off outside an Eidgah in Quetta on Wednesday where Shia-Hazaras had gathered for Eid prayers, killing at least 10 people — including three women — and wounding 11 others.
The blast on Hazara Eidgah on Gulistan Road also caused damages to several vehicles and nearby buildings.
Security forces cordoned off the area and started investigation and rescue teams shifted the dead and the wounded to nearby hospitals. Some of the injured are reportedly in critical condition.
According to reports on some news channels, Quetta Azadari Council has announced weeklong mourning against the blast. Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) has also condemned the terrorist attack while several other Shia parties have alsocalled for a 10-day mourning.
Hazara community in Quetta, predominantly Shia-Muslim, have repeatedly come under attack in the volatile province of Balochistan. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant Sunni extremist group with links to Punjabi Taliban, has often claimed responsibility for attacks on Hazaras in the town. However, there was no no immediate claim of responsibility for this bomb blast.

Suicide-car-bomber kills 10 in Quetta

A blast on Quetta’s Gulistan Road has killed at least ten and seriously injured 13 people, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.
Police are suspecting it to be a suicide blast.
"I have a hunch it was a suicide blast where the bomber, driving a car laden with explosive, rammed into this parking area and blew it up", CCPO said while talking to the channel.
Eyewitnesses said that ten to fourteen vehicles parked in the lot caught fire as a result.
Rescue work is in process and the injured have been rushed to hospitals.

Zulfi Mirza vs the MQM

EDITORIAL: Daily Times

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has disowned Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations after a meeting was held at the Presidency. The PPP suspended Dr Mirza’s basic membership. On Tuesday, Dr Mirza announced that he was quitting politics and lashed out at the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) once again. This time he chose Hyderabad as the venue. On the other hand, the MQM challenged Dr Mirza to provide proof to substantiate his allegations against the party. MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari said, “It is a lie that the MQM’s enemies have been narrating since the party was created, which is nothing new.” Mr Sabzwari further added that Dr Mirza’s “drama was carried out to divert attention from the suo motu hearing of the Supreme Court (SC) on the Karachi situation” and alleged that Dr Mirza wanted to create rifts between the Pashtuns and the Muhajir community. The MQM asked its workers to remain calm. The SC has expressed its dissatisfaction over a report presented by Inspector General (IG) of Sindh Police Wajid Durrani on the Karachi situation and directed the government to expose those behind the spate of violence. This should serve as a wake-up call for the law enforcement agencies. The apex court has done the right thing by pointing out its dissatisfaction with the report. It is time that the government comes clean about the real perpetrators of violence in Karachi regardless of their party affiliations.

The PPP is still wedded to its so-called policy of reconciliation and there are reports that the MQM may join the federal and provincial government soon. Explanations regarding Dr Mirza’s allegations are being called for left, right and centre — be it the Awami National Party (ANP), Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif or other political leaders. Responses and demands aside, whatever Dr Mirza has said merits serious consideration. The situation in Karachi has reached a critical stage. It is time that the government adopts a policy that will cut through the maze. Violence continues unabated in Karachi, the bhatta (extortion) mafia, land mafia, drug mafia, trafficking mafia and other such criminal activities have not yet stopped in the city. There is an entire political and ethnic mélange that has put the metropolis under constant siege. While the political parties keep playing politics on dead bodies and play their victimhood card, it is the common citizens who keep suffering. The surgical operation that has been launched in the city should be seen through to the bitter end. So far we have seen that the areas dominated by the MQM have not been touched. Since the PPP wants to keep the MQM on board in order to save its government, the PPP’s own constituency is being alienated. Prime Minister Gilani said, “The government cannot and would not allow the terrorists and gangsters to play with the lives of innocent people of Karachi.” Well, if he is really serious about getting rid of terrorists and criminals, his government should be expedient in carrying out justice instead of being politically partisan. The government’s credibility is already decreasing day by day. By carrying out an operation across the board, the government would not just save Karachi but would also add to its credibility. Here is wishing a peaceful Eid in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi.

Some forces trying to topple PPP govt: PM

: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said that certain forces were striving to end the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government before the upcoming March.

However, he said that such efforts would go in vain as the government enjoyed the support of the poor people.

Addressing a public gathering after the inauguration of Islamabad-Murree Expressway, the prime minister said that the unlawful tactics of such elements, who wanted to derail democracy, could not weaken the government.

He urged the people with such wishful approach to have patience and wait for another year for the completion of the present government’s tenure.

He said that his government was enjoying complete support of the masses and warned that “political fortune-tellers” predicting end of its tenure would face disappointment.

He stressed that the government had not come into power through backdoor, and added that it was up to the people to decide for the government’s next term on the basis of performance.

Gilani announced provision of gas to Murree in the near future. The decision was cheered by the gathering with people raising slogans in favour of the government and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

He announced the grand project of constructing a road between Lower Topa to Kohala, which will link Punjab, Azad Kashmir and Hazara. He mentioned that he had also announced the provision of electricity to the remaining houses in Bhara Kahu. He also ordered for the completion of Nazir Satti College in Murree.

He said that he would also study the proposal of a project to provide water from River Jhelum to Murree.

Gilani asked Pakistan Baitul Maal Chairman Zamurrad Khan to set up Sweet Home, an orphanage in Murree.

He announced for establishing a fund for every union council which, he said, would bring prosperity in the area.

The prime minister said that his party had great affinity with Murree. He recalled the address of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 35 years ago in the same city and also his own childhood memories of visiting Murree.

He said that the PPP was a symbol of a vision, ideology and belonged to martyrs. He said that this was the only party whose leaders had rendered sacrifices side by side by its workers.

Gilani said that a PPP worker always followed the footsteps of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, adding that democracy in the country was the outcome of Bhuttos sacrifices.

He said that the PPP had the ability to absorb all people from across the country.

The prime minister said that with Bhuttos policies, the country emerged as a nuclear power in the comity of nations.

He said that the vision of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto could not be restricted to one province, but spreads throughout the nation. He mentioned several reforms introduced by the government in terms of constitutional amendments which, he said, would strengthen the people’s roots.

Gilani said that the PPP had always struggled for democracy by fighting against dictators.

The prime minister wished the gathering Eid Mubarak in advance and appreciated their spirit of joining him on the last day of Ramazan.

Leader of the House in Senate Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Baitul Maal Zamurrad Khan, and MNAs Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Mehreen Anwar Raja and Fauzia Habib were present.

Fauzia Wahab appreciated the president and the prime minister on giving courage to the nation in the hour of crises. Mehreen Raja said the government’s policy of reconciliation had played a positive role in the functioning of the government and its relations with other parties. app

Peshawari chappal becoming fade in high society

The Frontier Post

Wearing peshawari Chappal is not only the tradition of people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also one of their identiy. Buying new pair of peshawari Chappal on special occasion like Eid is also an old tradition of the province. The footwear is more a sandal than a slipper and is the only footwear that most people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are comfortable in. The chappal gained a boost as a fashion item in the 80′s era when people like former Pakistan Cricket team captain Imran Khan wore it with jeans as well. Peshawari chappal since than caught the eyes of many fashion conscious people around the country and even of people abroad. In Pakistan, it isseen on the feet of many elite and fashion conscious rich people. It is also worn on many festive occasion as a matter of style by many,.The history of using peshawari chappal has evolved over the years from the rugged hard leather version that was once popular to softer suede numbers that can be bought at boutique shops all over the country. One master craftsman, Attaullah Khan, said that the real chappal should have soles shaped out of cut truck tyres. The durability of these chappals was more as compared to other footwear.”What is interesting is that the original chappals were made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, now the trend has been extended to other parts of the country and even you can see people living in Karachi wearing peshawari chappal,” he explained. Craftsmen like Attaullah Khan migrated several years ago from his native village in Upper Dir of the Khyber Pakhunkhwa to Peshawar as he says the demand for chappal is very high here.He said that wearing peshawari chappal had become a tradition of the people of Pakhtuns and they like to wear it on special occasion like wedding parties and Eid. “My entire family is in touch with the business and has established outfits in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Kohat and Quetta. Talking about the prices of the product, he said that the cost of both leather and rubber has gone up in the past year so a chappal that was once sold for Rs 500 has reached to Rs 1000. However, the price of the chappal when someone demands a custom made chappal with specific additions and alternation may cost much more.”The word Peshawar as its name implies was the city of skilled people and that is the reason that most of the Pakhtuns living in other parts of the world especially in Middle East countries like to take it with themselves when going abroad.And many Pakhtuns when someone is coming from Pakistan ask their friends to bring peshawari chappals to them, “Attaullah Khan told.

Three urdu movies to be released on Eid

Three Urdu movies of Lollywood are set to be released on first day of Eid in an attempt to revive the dying film industry of Pakistan.

“Love Mein Gum”, “Jugni” and “Bhai Log” are among the quality movies to be released that will serve the fun lovers to enjoy on eid occasion. With the status of dying film industry, Pakistani cinema Industry was all set to screen Hollywood and Bollywood movies but efforts are made by Pakistani producers and directors to produce quality movies and screen them on Eid.

Three Urdu movies - “Love Mein Gum”, “Bhai Log” and “Jugni” and two Punjabi movies “Society Girl” and “Shah Murad” - will be exhibited in all the cinemas across the country.

Much awaited Reema Khan’s movie Love Men Gum will showcase the acting skills of Moammar Rana, Reema Khan, Nabeel Khan, and Araida in the leading roles. Reema Khan, the director and producer of the film, claims that Love Mein Gum is the most expensive film to be made in Lollywood. Its music is given by M Arshad, Najat Ali, Ravi Bal, Waqar Ali and Huntar and the lyrics by Khawaja Parvaiz, Ahmad Aqeel Ruby and Marz. The singers include Ali Zafar and Abrarul Haq and Shazia Manzoor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eid Mubarak, says Kim Kardashian

Socialite Kim Kardashian and rapper are wishing everyone Eid Mubarak.
‘Eid Mubarak to my friends across the world. I can’t wait to see you at Millions of Milkshakes in Dubai in October,’ Kim posted on micro-blogging site twitter. of hip hop band The Black Eyed Peas said: ‘Happy EID to everyone who celebrates… Have a good day.’

Bahrain situation tense: UN rights body

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the situation in Bahrain remains “tense and unpredictable” as the Manama regime continues its brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

“We continue to receive reports of the repression of small protests and understand that at least 264 cases involving protesters remain pending before the courts, many of whom may be tried in the Court of National Safety, which is effectively a military court,” said Rupert Colville on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Colville pointed out that civilians “must be tried in civilian courts, charged with a recognizable crime, and given access to lawyers and time to prepare their defense.”

He stated that some detainees were still “desperately calling their families to appoint lawyers a day before trial.”

“We are concerned that most of the defendants in these cases may be prisoners of conscience, detained only for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. All such detainees must be released,” Colville said.

About 124 cases in Bahrain have so far received verdicts, including two death sentences; sixteen of the cases were acquitted completely, while seven others were partially acquitted, according to the UN rights official.

Colville's remarks come as a special security court on Sunday resumed the trial of 20 doctors and nurses accused of treating injured anti-government protesters in Bahrain. The court adjourned until September 7, when it will begin hearing defense witnesses.

The spokesman also called on the Bahraini government to release the list of the names of those arrested since March 15, as well as details on where they were being held and the charges and status of their trials.

Thousands of protesters in Bahrain have been holding peaceful anti-government demonstrations since mid-February, demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty in the tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom.

Libyan rebel leader gives Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte until Saturday to lay down arms

Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil Tuesday told Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists in his hometown Sirte to lay down arms by the end of the Eid holiday or face military strikes.

Jalil told a press conference in the eastern rebel bastion Benghazi that the rebels wanted to enter the town of Sirte in a peaceful manner and were still in negotiations with local tribal elders in this regard.

However, there are only four days left. "We have offered them an opportunity to coordinate with us," he said, "The window of this chance will be closed by the end of the Eid holiday."

If the efforts for a peaceful handover fail by Saturday, the rebels would resort to military means to enter Sirte, Jalil said, "We cannot wait more than that."

The rebels stormed the Libyan capital Tripoli last week and forced Gaddafi's forces to withdraw from the military compound Bab al-Aziziya in the capital. The opposition forces are edging both from the east and west front to Sirte, which is widely speculated as Gaddafi's hideout.

Meanwhile, Jalil told reporters that members of Gaddafi's family in Algeria have not yet been accused.

He said the Libyan National Transitional Council and Algeria have no deal on criminal handover. But he believed the Algerian authorities would not shelter those who deserve fair trial for a long time.

The relations between Libya and Algeria would not be influenced by the personal stance of some Algerian officials, Jalil added.

Several family members of Gaddafi entered Algeria Monday, but the whereabouts of the embattled leader remains misty.

The rebels are reportedly preparing attacks to capture the town of Sirte, which is located on the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Benghazi.

The rebel military spokesman Ahmed Bani said on Tuesday at a press conference the electricity supply in Sirte has been cut off for 10 days in addition to the shortage of fuel, food and medicine.

NATO carried out strikes in the area for the fourth day Monday, Doha-based TV channel al-Jazeera reported.

Amnesty petitions Pakistan over disappearances


Amnesty International has called on Pakistan’s government to end what it calls the growing practice of disappearances enforced by the state.

In an Aug. 29 petition on its website, the human rights group alleged the disappearances have increased dramatically since Pakistan joined the American war on militancy after the Sept. 11, 2001 airliner attacks on the United States.

Those detained — including activists, journalists and students — are sometimes found dead, with signs of torture.

Thousands may have fallen victim to the practice, Amnesty said.

Amnesty said a judicial commission of enquiry on the so-called enforced disappearances “had failed to resolve the crisis or to hold the security forces and intelligence agencies to account in cases implicating them.”

“The Prime Minister of Pakistan who controls the security agencies needs to urgently step in to address this human rights situation,” Amnesty said on its website.

It noted that enforced disappearances occur frequently in Balochistan. The province has been facing a low-level insurgency by nationalists who want more control over its natural resources, which they say are unfairly exploited by the federal government.

Amnesty said there were 93 recorded cases of people killed after being reported missing between October 2010 and May 2011 in Balochistan.

Pakistan’s military and security forces deny allegations of human rights abuses in the South Asian country, a strategic US ally.

Pakistan’s army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said: “There has been no military operation conducted in Balochistan since 2008. There is infighting going on between various militant groups, and they are kidnapping and killing each other”.

Partial Eid-ul-Fitre celebrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Partial Eid-ul-Fitre was celebrated in district Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Charsadda, Nowshera, Malakand of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Bajaur, Khyber, North and South Waziristan agencies of the tribal region on Tuesday.

In almost all these districts their local Ruet-e-Hilal Committees announced the celebration of the Eid-ul-Fitre while the unofficial Ruet-e-Hilal Committee of the Masjid Qasim Ali Khan also declared Eidul Fitre after receiving 10 witnesses regarding the sighting of the Shawal moon. With the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitre one-day ahead of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa kept alive its tradition of observing two Eids.

Zulfiqar Mirza lashes out at MQM...again
Former senior Sindh Minister Zulfiqar Mirza alleged that thousands of containers that were meant for NATO forces in Afghanistan have gone missing from the Karachi Port.
Mirza was addressing a press conference in Hyderabad on Tuesday when he blamed Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Babar Ghauri for the ‘illegal’ disappearance of the containers.
According to Mirza, the containers were full of arms and ammunition, and they went missing at around the same time when Ghauri became the Minister for Port and Shipping.
He said that Ghauri became the biggest real estate tycoon in Karachi from “being nothing at all during Musharraf’s era”.
Lashing out at the MQM, Mirza said the party’s main objective is to rule Sindh.
Mirza had earlier given fiery statements against the MQM in a press conference on Sunday, accusing the party of consipiring against Pakistan.
The recent press conference by Mirza came at the time when MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari was addressing the media in Karachi in an attempt to clear the allegations put up against his party.During his latest press conference, Mirza re-iterated that he will not take part in active politics.

Jerusalem Post fires writer over 'right to terror'

The English-language Jerusalem Post said on Tuesday it had terminated the employment of a columnist who wrote in a private blog that Palestinians "have the right to use terrorism" against Israelis.
The right-leaning daily announced on its front page that US-born writer Larry Derfner was being dismissed "due to a professional disagreement... connected to his personal blog."
Derfner could not immediately be reached by AFP but in a post on his blog entitled "I got fired by the Jerusalem Post today," he wrote that the paper had received "hundreds of notices of cancellations" from subscribers after they read an earlier blog he had posted on Sunday.
Entitled "The awful, necessary truth about Palestinian terror" the 1,000-word essay expressed Derfner's position that the Palestinians have the right to fight the Israeli occupation -- even violently.
The post was not connected to his "Rattling the cage" column in the Post.
"My intent was not to encourage terror but the opposite," he wrote.
"I meant, instead, to shock Israelis and friends of Israel into seeing how badly we?re hurting the Palestinians by denying them independence: It?s so bad that it?s helping drive them to try to kill us."
In Sunday's post, for which he later apologised and has since removed from his blog, Derfner wrote: "So long as we who oppose the occupation keep pretending that the Palestinians don?t have the right to resist it, we tacitly encourage Israelis to go on blindly killing and dying in defence of an unholy cause.
"But while I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us, I don?t want them to use it, I don?t want to see Israelis killed, and as an Israeli, I would do whatever was necessary to stop a Palestinian, oppressed or not, from killing one of my countrymen."
A day later, the Post ran a column entitled: "Justifying murder -- an abomination" in which commentator Isi Leibler wrote that Derfner's comments "are so vile that they go beyond treason."
But Derfner found an unlikely ally in right-wing analyst and commentator Barry Rubin who wrote that the correct response should have been to refute his arguments rather than dismiss him.
"Larry Derfner should be debated, not fired," he wrote in a post on an academic website.
"All too often nowadays the response to disagreement is to try to destroy people on the other side of the argument, to delegitimise them with name-calling and to silence them. That?s not the way democratic debate is supposed to work."
Rubin makes his own beliefs clear in the same post, where he maintains that only east Jerusalem and part of the southern West Bank city of Hebron are under Israeli occupation.
International law considers all territory seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War -- the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- to be illegally occupied, and jurists have said that even though Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, its continued control over its air and sea space, means it remains occupied.
One response to the firing of Derfner's expressed surprise at his fate. "Bizarre," it read.
"You're employed by a leading newspaper to 'rattle the cage' and when you do, they fire you?"

Fruit and vegetables rot as hunger stalks India

Sunil Sharma, a young tomato farmer in northern India, must navigate decripit roads, corrupt policemen and blazing heat to deliver his produce in an unrefrigerated truck to New Delhi's wholesale vegetable market.
India is plagued by malnutrition and soaring inflation, but it's not for lack of food. It is the world's second largest grower of fresh produce, but loses an estimated 40 percent of its fruit and vegetables to rot because of the kind of problems Sharma faces every week.
During one recent journey trucking tomatoes for himself and two other farmers to the capital, he was stuck for three days.
"Of the 350 crates of tomatoes I started out with, I could salvage only around 150 crates. The rest had turned to pulp," a despondent Sharma said.
Post-harvest food losses of the scale found in India are a problem throughout the developing world and translate into lower incomes for farmers and higher prices for consumers. Inflation is already undermining living standards across Asia with world food prices at record highs since December last year, according to the U.N. food agency.
In India, home to more than a third of the world's 150 million malnourished children younger than 5, food inflation reached nearly 10 percent in July.
"It's criminal neglect on the part of the government to allow this volume of wastage," says Biraj Patnaik, an adviser to India's Supreme Court on food policy. "Just cutting back on the waste would make such a dent in bringing down food inflation, making food more affordable, and hence, available to poor families."
At a busy New Delhi market, shop-owner Raj Kumar polishes his vegetables with a drop of oil on his duster. Shiny purple eggplants, bright green beans and golden lemons beckon middle-class shoppers.
But around the corner from Kumar's brightly lit shop lay the food that had arrived there wilted and rotten: a heap of beans turning gray, mushy eggplants and blight-blackened potatoes.
"I throw out vegetables every day. What can I do with them? Nobody wants these," he said.
Savitri Debi, a housewife with two teenage children, says she is shocked and angry at the mass of vegetables thrown away by shopkeepers.
"Vegetable prices keep going up and up. But look at the amount that is wasted," says Debi as she shopped for groceries. "It just makes me so angry that every day this place has mounds of rotten vegetables, when we can barely afford to buy potatoes."
The government, as well, has expressed horror and frustration at the rot. It has begun work on a strategy to cut post-harvest losses by building modern grain silos, cold storage warehouses and setting up farmers' markets in remote areas to link vegetable growers with retail outlets in the cities, Food Minister K.V. Thomas told The Associated Press.
Plans are also afoot to assign special — though not refrigerated — railway wagons to transport vegetables on a priority basis to modern warehouses, he said.
But for Ranvir Thakur, a farmer in the agriculturally rich Solan district of Himachal Pradesh 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Delhi, the government's efforts seem all too far away.
"Growing vegetables in India is a risky business," Thakur said as he tried to find a buyer for a truckload of his almost table-ready tomatoes and capsicums at the bustling vegetable market in Solan.
"We face the risk of vegetables rotting at every stage — whether in the field, on the road, or in the markets," says Thakur, his weather-beaten face grimacing as he recalls recent losses.
The fetid odor of decaying vegetables hits the visitor to the 'mandi' or wholesale market in Solan nearly a hundred meters (yards) away from its massive gates. The mandi, the first point of sale for local farmers, was crowded with farmers, traders, commission agents and truckers surrounded by thickets of plastic crates stacked atop each other in shaky towers.
Hundreds of vegetable and fruit trucks reach the wholesale market each morning. Commission agents trawl the narrow alleys between the crates, looking out for the best bargains. Deals are struck, crates of vegetables— color-coded to indicate the owner— are auctioned in a high-decibel exchange and swiftly heaved onto trucks by a swarm of sweating musclemen.
Trader Balwant Singh says the paucity of refrigerated trucks means that delays at state border crossings, traffic jams, or the frequent landslides that clog hill roads can wilt and rot vegetables.
"There are only one or two trucks, belonging to private firms, that are refrigerated. The rest are open trucks, with tarps or plastic sheets for cover in case it rains," Singh said. "By the time we put up the tarps, the vegetables are soaked, and these begin to decay when we hit the heat and humidity in the plains."
Some believe allowing supermarket giants such as Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour to operate in India's multibillion-dollar retail market could succeed where the government has failed. They are keen to move in, sign contracts directly with farmers, use refrigerated transport and storage to reduce waste and bypass the middlemen.
Their entry so far has been blocked by government restrictions out of fear they will wipe out millions of small grocery stores in India. A government panel last month recommended allowing up to 51 percent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail on condition that at least half the investment is made in back-end infrastructure such as cold storage chains and warehouses. A decision by the Cabinet could take several months.
Sharma, the young tomato grower, says the vulnerability of the farmers is exploited by road transport inspectors who demand bribes for trucks to enter neighboring states.
"The worst is when we enter Delhi. Police and transport officials hold up the trucks for hours at the toll gates till we pay up."
Sharma said he pays a bribe of 1,500 rupees ($33) for his truck every time he crosses into New Delhi on his way to Azadpur Mandi, one of Asia's biggest wholesale markets.
Spread over 90 acres in northern Delhi, Azadpur Mandi is a nerve center of India's fruit and vegetable trade. Trucks, cars, horse-carts and bicycle-driven carts are parked haphazardly in an ankle-deep mix of mud and putrefying vegetables.
Heaps of produce that is overripe and unlikely to withstand further transportation are tossed aside, crushed underfoot, or dumped in the mandi's overflowing garbage site.
When Sharma's truck arrives, a gang of loaders surrounds it. After a quick agreement, a trio of workers begins disgorging its contents. It's soon evident that delays have cost Sharma heavily.
"We'll barely recover the cost of hiring the truck. Such a large amount has spoiled," said Prem Singh, Sharma's trader at Azadpur Mandi.

U.S. Has Wasted $30 Billion on Iraq, Afghanistan Contracts and Grants

The federal government has wasted more than $30 billion on contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new report set to be released Wednesday.
The co-chairmen of the committee producing the report previewed the results, saying "major changes in law and policy" will be needed to prevent such a large degree of waste in future conflicts. Christopher Shays, a former Connecticut congressman, and Mark Thibault, a former Pentagon official overseeing contracts, blamed poor management and a slew of other factors in a Washington Post column.

The amount of money wasted on Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade represents at least one in every six dollars spent. Part of the problem was contracts were doled out without "effective competition," while others were subcontracted to foreign firms not subject to U.S. laws.
The result was a series of boondoggles. The co-chairmen cited a $40 million prison in Iraq that the country did not want and was not completed. They also cited a $300 million Kabul power plant -- which, like some other projects the co-chairmen expressed concern about, would require sustained funding and expertise that Kabul does not have the resources to provide.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan will submit its report to Congress.
The officials noted that because the number of contractors in the war zones has roughly equaled the number of military forces, the U.S. cannot conduct major operations without them. In the future, they recommended creating a "permanent inspector general for contingency operations," as well as an official who would work in the White House budget office and participate in National Security Council meetings to make sure agencies are properly coordinating contracts.
They also recommended "more rigorous use of risk analysis" to determine whether certain jobs should be contracted out in the first place.

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Feeling insecure, Pakhtuns start leaving Karachi

THE deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi has forced many people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to leave behind their properties, jobs and business and say goodbye to the port city.

They have started seeking alternative sources of income in the province to shift their families to their hometowns for their protection.

“Millions of Pakhtuns, most of them very poor, are crying for help as they cannot move to workplaces, but no one is there to given them a helping hand in the existing dreadful situation,” said Dr Wilayat, who vacated his residence in Karachi and moved to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Dr Wilayat, who belongs to Dir district and works at a government hospital in Karachi, told Dawn by telephone that two years ago he had shifted to his newly built house at Raja Tanveer Colony in Orangi Town but his family was unsafe there and he again returned to Banaras Colony.

“A group of unidentified youths thrice tried to kidnap me when I was on way from office to home but they failed to do so. In such a situation earning money has no importance and the only option left for me was to vacate my house,” he said.

He said that he was seeking job in Peshawar to shift his family from Karachi permanently.

Abdul Wajid, a worker of a private firm of the same area, said that he was living at Banaras Colony but could not go to his workplace and had to purchase everything on debt. “It was not possible for me to live there any longer as my children also could not go to schools,” he added.

He said that he decided to say goodbye to Karachi and shift his family to Peshawar for its protection. He added that two youths in his neighbourhood — one belonged to Swat and the other to Buner — were shot dead when they were on way to home for Iftari but police did not arrest the killers.

“Those, who wear shalwar qamees are shot dead at sight,” he alleged. He said most of the people wanted to return to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but they had no source of income in their villages.

Awami National Party Sindh president Shahi Syed, when contacted, also expressed grave concern over the situation. He said that maximum of the Pakhtuns, who suffered, belonged to Balochistan as they had hotels, restaurants, hardware shops, tea stalls in the localities of the Urdu speaking people.

“People are kidnapped and their drilled bodies stuffed in bags are dumped in open plots or in drains but law enforcement agencies are yet to arrest the killers,” he lamented.

The only demand of people, he said, was restoration of peace, arrest of killers and destruction torture cells wherever they located. He stressed the need for effective and across the board operation and recovery of weapons. In the month of July, he said, over 100 Pakhtuns had been killed.

Many of the cases of killings and injuries had not been registered with police. “About 4,000 Pakhtuns living in localities of Urdu speaking people because of their businesses or jobs have been forced to flee,” Mr Syed added.

He appealed to Pakhtun leaders of different political and religious parties to come forward, sit together and take unified stand for safety of Pakhtuns as all those suffering were not ANP workers Feeling insecure, Pakhtuns start leaving Karachi
but they belonged to different groups.

The ANP leader said that Pakhtuns were auctioning their costly houses and leaving Karachi. It was duty of the government to protect lives and properties of the people, he added.

Jamaat-i-Islami deputy chief Sirajul Haq said that it was not the problem of Pakhtuns only as every community had suffered owing to target killings and the entire responsibility rested with the coalition partners in the government. He said that ANP, MQM and PPP were equally responsible for bloodshed in Karachi.

“Every ruling party has formed its own armed wing for illegal occupation of plots, buildings, collection of extortion and police are not allowed to arrest them,” he said.

He added that police knew about everyone, every torture cell and dumps of weapons in all localities but government was least interested to stop the bloodshed.

He said that army should take action against criminals irrespective of their political affiliations. He said that armed groups had been established just for blackmailing of each others.

Veteran politician Afzal Khan Lala suggested that all the political parties should come together and devise a combined policy to save Karachi. He said that it was duty of all secular and religious parties to realise their responsibilities, feel agonies of each other and take unified stand on the issues of national interests.

He said that Pakhtuns were suffering everywhere but their leaders were divided in groups. He said that Karachi was mini-Pakistan and Pakhtuns had played and were still playing vital role in development of the metropolis and nobody had the right to expel them unlawfully.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party provincial general secretary Arbab Mujeebur Rehman, National Party provincial president Mukhtar Bacha and Pakhtuns Awareness Movement president Shahab Khattak also expressed concern over the bloodshed in Karachi.

They suggested that an all parties’ conference should take decisions and government should implement the same. They said that Pakhtuns should be given due representation in different departments and their localities should be developed.

They suggested that Pakhtuns Qaumi Jirga having representation of all parties and groups should be convened to find a permanent solution to the problem.

Talks on new US-Afghan pact strains relations

A pact aimed at clearing up mistrust and confusion between Washington and Kabul about the future of U.S. troops and aid in Afghanistan has instead sowed more of the same.

Afghan officials worry that the United States is looking for a way to decrease support for Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in 2014, especially in light of U.S. economic woes and waning public support for the war, now in its tenth year. American officials insist the agreement is designed to allay that fear, but acknowledge the draft agreement is less precise than the Afghans want, and unenforceable.

With Kabul seeking detailed guarantees but Washington insisting on something more vague, it's not surprising that each side is looking warily at the other.

Negotiators from both countries are to meet in Washington early next month to continue their talks. Discussions come at a time when relations are already strained, anti-Americanism is running high in Afghanistan and uncertainty abounds over what will happen to the nation as foreign forces continue their march home.

The document is meant, in part, to give Afghans confidence that the United States will not abandon them after 2014, when U.S. and other foreign combat troops have left or taken on military support roles. At the same time, it will give the U.S. a legal framework to continue counterterrorism, counter-narcotics and training missions, according to a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

The goal is to have an agreement done before an international conference in Germany on the future of Afghanistan in December, but many sticking points remain. Among them:

— Will American forces be stationed on joint or Afghan-run bases?

— Who will take the lead in conducting nighttime kill-and-capture raids, a flashpoint for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan?

— Will detention operations be run by the Afghans or Americans?

— What long-term commitments will the U.S. make to support the struggling Afghan government, education and health care?

The document will leave several major questions unanswered, including how long American taxpayers will foot the bill for Afghan security forces, which in 2014 will cost an estimated $8 billion a year.

The agreement also sets up a potential conflict between two U.S. goals for Afghanistan — a base of operations for counterterrorism and a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban demand a complete withdrawal of foreign forces.

The so-called "strategic partnership agreement" was sought by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and U.S. officials are confident that Afghans' desire to get something in writing is likely to trump their worry that the document is not specific enough.

But the talks have gone on longer than the Americans wanted, and there is palpable frustration at what two U.S. officials described as circular and repetitive discussions. The two sides already held talks twice this year.

Karzai has a string of specific demands, including that U.S. troops stop conducting nighttime raids to nab suspected insurgents and that Afghans be put in charge of detention facilities. He also wants a ban on U.S. launching operations into other nations from Afghan soil. The U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was launched from Afghanistan.

Some Afghan officials also want the U.S. to equip them with F-16 fighter jets and Abrams tanks — military wares that U.S. officials say are too costly and not needed by the nascent Afghan security forces.

"We will come to an agreement only if our conditions are accepted," Karzai boldly told a group of Afghan security officials at a recent meeting.

A senior U.S. official familiar with the negotiations said the Obama administration is not trying to water down the agreement, but can't — or won't — negotiate so many details of the relationship at once. The official said the agreement is supposed to be broad and by design will not carry the force of a treaty.

But Afghans say a vague agreement could leave them vulnerable to the Taliban, and that they need guarantees of support if they are going to risk the ire of neighboring nations like Iran by signing a long-term deal with the U.S. — especially one that will allow tens of thousands of American troops to stay in Afghanistan.

Many Afghans are afraid of trusting the Americans because they felt abandoned by the U.S. after 1989, when the Soviet Union withdrew its army from Afghanistan. U.S. support to mujahedeen fighters battling the Soviets dried up a few years later and Afghanistan then sank into civil war. That was followed by the rise of the Taliban and the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida, which was using Afghanistan as a sanctuary.

"There's a famous saying 'Once bitten, twice shy,'" said Shaida Mohammad Abdali, deputy national security adviser and special assistant to Karzai. "We are worried about our destiny, our future." Still he is confident the two sides eventually will agree to a new pact.

A central question is how many American troops will remain in Afghanistan after the international combat mission ends in 2014, and for how long. Estimates have ranged from 20,000 to 40,000.

Two U.S. officials refused to specify any proposed numbers of American soldiers, and said the agreement would not have an expiration date.

A western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, said the U.S. wants to keep 35,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Discussions have centered on five locations, including Herat in the west near the Iranian border, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Jalalabad in the east along the Pakistan border and Kandahar in the south.

But Abdali says the question is not how many bases the American troops will occupy.

"What is important for us to agree upon are the terms. How will these facilities be used?" he said in an interview at the presidential palace.

Washington, though, has been very clear on one issue.

To ease friction with Afghanistan's neighbors, U.S. officials have said repeatedly the United States does not want permanent bases on Afghan soil. Pakistan, Iran, Russia and other regional powers have expressed concern over the idea of permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

"I would not rule out an U.S.-Afghan, or coalition-Afghan agreement that provides for coalition forces remaining in country beyond 2014," U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker told reporters recently. "They would obviously remain on bases. I would expect they would be joint bases although I don't know that for a fact."

Then he added: "I offer you this fearless prediction: They will not be permanent."

Public inquiry in Mirza’s charges


The charges levelled by Dr. Zulfikar Mirza, former Sindh PPP minister, against the MQM and federal interior minister Rehman Malik are too serious to be dismissed just like that. Those very disconcertingly relate to the country’s security, stability, in fact its very existence. He has spoken of a US conspiracy to break up Pakistan, of which he says MQM supremo Altaf Hussain is very much part. He further claims Altaf having written to former British prime minister Tony Blair for the disbandment of the ISI. And he accuses Malik of being a compulsive liar, hand-in-glove with terrorists in Karachi. And if some harm comes to Pakistan, he says, Malik will be no less responsible for that. These are no petty political accusations that could be shrugged off dismissively, as have the MQM and Malik. Mirza has made specific charges and those have to be answered specifically by both, not evasively as have they done. His accusations have touched off very troubling alarms in the people’s minds which cannot be settled down by counter-allegations against him by the MQM nor by meaningless comments by Malik. The MQM has to clearly state if their supremo had spoken or not of the alleged US conspiracy to dismember Pakistan to Mirza and also if he had told him that his party was aboard this diabolical plot. And the party has categorically to state if Altaf had sent a letter to Blair for the ISI’s dismantling, as asserts Mirza. And Malik has to state his position unambiguously on each and every accusation that Mirza has slapped him with. The PPP leadership too must understand that it cannot take the escape route by simply taking the cover of Mirza’s accusations being his personal views. It is no some simple political foray that the leadership could dissociate with his sallies so conveniently. What he has said is not something that concerns just the party or its estranged political ally or Malik. Surly, it is not politics he has spoken of. It is sensitive matters so crucially concerning the country’s stability and security that he has talked of. The issue is too grave and the PPP leadership has necessarily to take the matter in the same light, which regrettably it has not, as is so evident from the patently evasive comments of the party’s senior official and political functionaries. Indeed, given the gravity of the affair, the ruling PPP leadership should have immediately responded to his charges by instituting on its own a high-level investigation to establish the truth. It deplorably has not. In fact, it appears inclined to sleeping over the issue and let it fade out, giving the perturbing sense that it is its political expediency not the country’s security that comes to it uppermost. That is not acceptable. Some pundits have proposed the inclusion of Mirza in the suo moto case presently being heard by the Supreme Court on the worrisome law and order situation in the port city of Karachi. Mirza has himself volunteered to appear before the honourable apex court if he is called to make a deposition. But what he has said goes beyond the Karachi turmoil and is much broader in content and substance. And that calls for an incisive separate inquiry to establish the facts for a very stern follow-up action. In the circumstances, the more appropriate action would be to set up a high-level tribunal comprising persons of repute in law, security and intelligence to hold the inquiry. And it must be a public inquiry, open to the media with permission to telecast the proceedings live. Mirza asserts he has the documentary evidence to substantiate his charges. Those he should present to the tribunal. And the tribunal must provide all the opportunity to the accused parties to present their case. The truth must not just be established; the people must know of it first-hand. This country is too precious. And nobody whoever he may be can be allowed to play with its destiny, integrity and security. The hands that are trying to hurt it must be chopped off with a sharp razor; and those colluding with its enemies must be dealt with unsparingly and unforgivably without any leniency or even the slightest favour.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Six years after Katrina, praise for Irene response

Six years after "Katrina" became shorthand for a botched response to a crisis, authorities at all levels of government are winning praise for their handling of Hurricane Irene.
"Who would have thought, here we are, six years later, and instead of debating failures, we're debating being overprepared?" Chad Sweet, who served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said Monday. "I think it's a good thing."
As Irene headed for the East Coast over the weekend, governors and mayors from the Carolinas to New England ordered residents to leave low-lying coastal areas. President Barack Obama cut his summer vacation a day short to return to Washington, pledging to make sure federal agencies "are doing everything in their power" to help after the storm moved inland Sunday.
Though it lost steam as it moved toward New York, Irene still killed 21 people in nine states and caused flooding as far north as Vermont. An estimated 3 million remained without power Monday.Katrina, by comparison, killed 1,464 people in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi and 21 in other states after it struck the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005. It flattened much of coastal Mississippi and flooded New Orleans when the city's protective levees failed, leaving tens of thousands stranded.
While some agencies like the Coast Guard won praise for their rescue efforts, the slow and disengaged response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was a major embarrassment for the Bush administration. A bipartisan investigation by Congress called it "a national failure" at all levels of government, "an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare."

But Sweet told CNN's "American Morning" that FEMA appears to have learned hard lessons since then. The agency that has responded to Irene under Director Craig Fugate is "FEMA 2.0," one that tries to stay ahead of events and embraces social media to communicate.
"What Mr. Fugate is doing is prepositioning the assets before the storm hits and being there," he said. "We've heard this across the board, whether it's Republican or Democratic leaders across the states, thanking FEMA for being forward-leaning. That's the right model."
Sweet also praised leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for sounding the alarms early and working closely with FEMA and other federal agencies.

"We saw leadership in close collaboration as a team," he said.
And retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the military response to Katrina, told that early calls to evacuate were "the right thing to do."
"I've been in the storm business for years, and I've never seen officials be prudent enough to cancel commercial and sporting events before a storm," he said. "Folks in the Northeast did that. The day before Katrina, we had a football game in Baton Rouge. That's how far the community has come."
The name "Katrina" quickly became a standard-issue epithet after the 2005 disaster. Critics tried to dub the 2010 Gulf oil disaster "Obama's Katrina," while a paralyzing Northeastern blizzard the following December became either "Christie's Katrina" or "Bloomberg's Katrina," depending on one's side of the Hudson and political bent.
Ahead of Irene, Fugate -- a veteran of numerous hurricanes in his previous job as Florida's emergency management chief -- dismissed suggestions that the warnings being issued were tinged by fears of a repeat of the 2005 storm.
"This is how I've always been operating," he told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Friday. "This is how we did it when I was in Florida. This is what we do here in the president's administration, as we bring the team together. We get the team ready. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But we're not going to wait to find how bad it is before we get ready."

The nerve centre of al-Qaeda lies in Pakistan: Pentagon

Al-Qaeda's "nerve center" lies in Pakistan even though the recent killings of Osama bin Laden in May and now its number two Atiyah abd al-Rahman has dealt the global terror group severe blow, the Pentagon on Monday said.

Al-Qaeda in Pakistan clearly remains a nerve center of the organisation, remains dangerous. They have suffered significant losses in recent years," Pentagon spokesman, George Little told reporters during an off-camera news conference here.

Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula also remains a considerable concern, Little said in response to a question.

"I think the Secretary (of Defense) has made the key point that keeping up the intense pressure on leadership of al-Qaeda and its militant allies is very important.

"He believes that this is essential to protecting this country. It is essential to eventually defeating and dismantling al-Qaeda," he said.

"The latest death of Atiyah abd al-Rahman, who had grown in prominence inside Al Qaeda in recent years is a significant blow to the group," Little said.

MQM should offer consolation to Pakhtuns: ANP

Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali said on Monday that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) should offer consolation to the Pakhtuns, referring to senior PPP member Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations against the MQM, DawnNews reported.

“Serious allegations have been made against MQM and Interior Minister Rehman Malik,” said Wali.

Wali said in order to solve Karachi’s problems it is necessary to analyse the situation after the May 12 incident.

“The Supreme Court should summon Zulfikar Mirza in court so things become clear,” said Wali.

Wali said if the MQM does not clarify its self against the allegations made by Zulfiqar Mirza then ANP will take appropriate action.

Rehman Malik’s plea to the Supreme Court

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has appealed to the Supreme Court to impose ban on collection of skins of sacrificial animals and ‘Fitra’ by political parties.

It will help maintaining peace in Karachi, he said while talking to media at State Guest house after presiding over law and order meeting here on Monday.

He said the situation in the city has improved but strict action will remain in place against criminals to ensure permanent peace.

“If we get information about the presence of arms or criminals in the office of any political party, strict action will be taken against the responsible”, he added.

He said joint interrogation team led by SSP has been formed for investigation of accused, arrested during the operation. The team will send its report to Home Secretary.

The interior Minister said that the SHOs are responsible for maintaining peace in their respective areas, and in case they fail to fulfill their responsibility, action will be taken against them.

To a question about allegations by Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza against him, he said, “I have requested the prime minister to conduct judicial inquiry into the allegation”.

He said “the prime minister has assigned me with the task of maintaining peace in Karachi, and I will complete it successfully”.

Karachi violence: SC adjourns hearing till Tuesday

The Supreme Court’s Karachi registry began hearing the suo moto case regarding the security situation in Karachi, Geo News reported. The case is being heard by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The Chief Justice asked what steps were taken by the government over the violation of fundamental rights and who was backing killers in Karachi. The apex court also summoned reports from intelligence agencies from the attorney general

During proceedings, IG Sindh Wajid Durrani informed the court that 306 people had been killed during July 24 and August 24. 25 bodies were recovered, 17 of which were recovered in gunny sacks. 332 cases were also lodged.

The Chief Justice asked the IG if he had investigated where the abducted people were taken and that he should have recorded the statement of at least one of the abducted. The IG informed the court that 20 criminals had been arrested but those abducted had failed to identity anyone due to fear. In his defense the IG told the court that those abducted on August 19 had been recovered.

In his remarks, the Chief Justice said the protection of life and property lay with institutions. He asked why SHO’s were not aware of crime in their jurisdiction. To this, IGP Sindh Wajid Ali Durrani replied that police and ordinary citizens were not allowed entry in no-go areas of Karachi. He also informed the court that extortion was a problem which was plaguing the city for the last 10-12 years.

Durrani informed the court about weapons which were present in the city, such as rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns to which the Chief Justice asked where were these weapons coming from? The Chief Justice asked the IG where torture cells had been discovered, to which Durrani replied that the police had not found any.

The chief justice formed two benches for hearing cases at the Karachi Registry on August 29 and 30. The first bench is headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while the second bench will be headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

The families of the victims of target killings were also asked to volunteer their appearance before the apex court and may also submit any evidence, if available.

The court has adjourned the hearing till Tuesday.

People are waiting for end of ‘Don’ Altaf: Muhajir Qaumi Movement

If sensitive departments and police would indicate the real elements behind targeted killing in Karachi in the Supreme Court, then it is sure that the mafia, which has spread its legs from Karachi to London and involved in carnage would be unveiled.
This was said by Divisional Organizer Muhajir Qaumi Movement Maqbool Hussain, Joint Organizer Khalid Hameed and Information Secretary Mayo Shafiq Ahmed in a joint statement issued from temporary Bait-ul-Hamza, headquarters of Muhajir Qaumi Movement.
They said that Altaf Hussain

is a Don of the mafia involved in targeted killing. Muhajirs have not astonished with the news items regarding taking Altaf into custody, as they all know the black deeds of his organization. The Muhajir people are waiting anxiously for his dreadful end, which played bloodshed of people of Karachi especially Muhajir youth during last two decades just to keep hold on the city.
They said that Altaf Hussain introduced politics of arms in Karachi, which impedes the developmental programme of Muhajir Qaumi Movement. He converted Karachi into “no go area” for Muhajir Qaumi Movement and slain almost 400 leaders during last nine years. His organization also pushed thousand of the supporters of Muhajir Qaumi Movement to leave the city forcibly.
They were of the view that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif rightly said that his party could not get desired results at Karachi due to armed politics. But it must be told to the nation that why PML (N) and other political parties, by violating the declaration of All Parties Conference (APC), held in 2007 want to maintain relations with the organization that was behind the incident of 12 May.

They claimed that only Muhajir Qaumi Movement could break the myth of Altaf Hussain at Karachi, if other political parties would carry out complete boycott of him and his radical party.

2011 Youth Model Contest wraps up in Beijing

The New Silk Road's 2011 Youth Model Contest concluded last week in Beijing. Naturally, all the children wanted to look their best, so they, along with their parents, did everything they could to shape themselves. Let's take a look.

This was not actually a fashion show. It was a youth model contest with many beautiful and confident young people. Although they are children, the show provided audiences a real eyeful. These young models have shown their talents on par with some professionals.

But for the kids, the contest is more like a way to have fun, with no intention of becoming a model.

A model trainer said, "We have two directions for this contest. One is to let children participate in this kind of contest to promote their hobbies. The other is to train them to have good temperament and manner for themselves to give others a nice impression."

A child model said, "I think I became much braver after the contest."

The contest provides young people with a great opportunity to show themselves in front of an audience and rise to the challenge.

Gaddafi remains a threat to Libya, world: rebel chief

Muammar Gaddafi is still a threat to Libya and the world, as his whereabouts remain misty, chief of the executive board of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Mostafa Abdel Jalil said here Monday.

At a meeting, held in the Qatari capital of Doha, of senior military figures from countries participated in the military actions in Libya in the past months, Jalil called on the coalition to further help and support the North African nation, as no concrete information about the whereabouts of the embattled Libyan leader and his sons were currently available.

The rebel fighters captured last Tuesday Gaddafi's Bab al- Azizya compound in the capital Tripoli, but Gaddafi had already withdrawn "tactically."

Analysts say the large amount of missiles, and chemical weapons reportedly possessed by Gaddafi's forces, including over 10 tons of mustard gas (estimated by the United States), could be a peril.

On Sunday, Libyan rebels had said that over 10,000 prisoners arrested by Gaddafi's government had been freed since the rebel forces took control of Tripoli, but about 50,000 prisoners were still missing. Rebel military spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani said it would be "catastrophic" if it turned out that they had already been killed after being arrested.

The rebels had on Saturday vowed fair trials for those having worked with Gaddafi, and said the reward for killing or capturing the fallen leader could be increased.

The rebels are reportedly preparing attacks on Monday to capture Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

Iranian diplomat says al-Assad must heed 'legitimate demands'

Iran's foreign minister says he backs Syria's president but that the embattled Bashar al-Assad must pay heed to his citizenry's demands amid the country's instability, an Iranian news outlet reported on Saturday.
Semi-official Iranian Students News Agency quoted

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying that Syria should be more cautious and patient in its dealings with the citizenry.
Iran has been a top ally of Syria. The foreign minister warned of the consequences of a power vacuum amid the five-month-long protests in the Arab country.
Syria's regime has come under criticism and pressure for its harsh crackdown on demonstrators and world powers have called for al-Assad to step down.
As a result of the tumult, Iran is concerned about the effects of the instability on the region and exploitation of the unrest by other countries.

"We take one single position on Middle East and North African countries' popular developments. We believe developments in regional countries came following discontent of their nations," Salehi told ISNA."Regional governments should be vigilant about foreigners' meddling in their internal affairs. Current interference of foreigners in internal affairs of some regional countries, particularly in Syria, is clear-cut to everyone."
Salehi insisted that al-Assad should be supported and that "changing the regime in Syria is unconventional and is followed by an evil purpose."
Meanwhile at least one person was killed in the suburban Damascus town of Saqba after protests broke out on Saturday, said Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of Human Rights Observatory in Syria, an activist group.
Abdul Rahman said scores of people were arrested in raids Saturday night as protesters tried to get to Damascus. He said snipers have been deployed on the rooftops and security forces have a heavy presence on streets.
Reports of state-run news agency reporters on Saturday denied there were demonstrations in Damascus-area regions, despite news reports from Arabic-language networks.
The Syrian Arab News Agency report said Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya once again proved "to be part of the conspiracy plotted against Syria through their psychological and media war strategies."