Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bahraini activist 'assaulted and arrested'

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist, has reportedly been seized by masked men, thought to be plainclothes policemen, after being beaten unconscious.

Alkhawaja is the former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. His reported arrest comes amid a continued crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the tiny Gulf nation.

Zeinab Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, his daughter, told Al Jazeera that police took him from her house - bleeding profusely and unconscious after the beating - in the village of Manama, outside the capital, at around 2am (local time) on Saturday.

Her brother-in-law, Hussain Ahmed Hussain, and her husband, Wafi Almajed, were also assaulted and arrested.

"They broke the door of the apartment. My father didn't resist at all, he went to them calmly but straight away a policeman told him, 'Down, down, get on the floor' ... They dragged him down the stairs and started beating him," she said.

"They did not give any reason ... They were beating him very severely, on the ground, maybe four or five of them, kicking him and hitting him in the face."

She said her father had been calling for democracy and had been saying that the regime was guilty of killing, torturing and detaining people, and should be put on trial.

Security forces arrested another family member, Salah Alkhawaja, also a human rights activist, three weeks ago. There has been no news of his whereabouts since March 21, and his family has not been informed whether any charges have been laid against him.

"The government has been trying to use sectarianism to get out of the issue," Alkhawaja said.

The kingdom had witnessed massive pro-democracy protests last month, apparently inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. It prompted the authorities to bring in troops from GCC countries and unleash a violent crackdown.

Rights activists say there has been a wave of violent house raids, arrests and punitive firings of many of those who had supported the protest.


BAHRAIN'S Editor Silenced, With the Help of Unreliable Sources

FOR years, Mansour al-Jamri

led what was, by all accounts, a charmed life.

Having returned to Bahrain a decade ago at the personal invitation of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he enjoyed a certain degree of immunity from government pressures, even when the prosperous, independent newspaper he started, Al Wasat, made things uncomfortable for a minister or two.

In the last two months of rising tensions and violence, his was a voice of moderation, urging both the Sunni royal family and leaders of the predominantly Shiite protest movement to sit down and compromise. He wrote columns criticizing government repression and corruption, and others condemning moves by protesters to march on the royal palace and barricade the country’s main highway — acts that eventually provoked a sweeping crackdown over the last three weeks.

But suddenly, Mr. Jamri found himself out of a job, forced to quit last weekend to keep Al Wasat open. He now spends his days clearing out his office and preparing to face prosecutors on Monday. They have accused him of publishing false stories to incite Shiites to rise up against the government.

“They have taken away my baby,” said Mr. Jamri, who says the false stories were planted. “When they touch and attack Al Wasat, it is a message to everybody that there is a new Bahrain. They are re-engineering the country.”

Speaking out extensively for the first time since his arrest, he said on Friday that he did not want to consider what could happen to him next. In an interview conducted in part in a car as his wife nervously drove around the city trying to avoid military roadblocks, he said he received threatening text messages every day, and when he called back he was greeted with taunts inflected with mock Shiite slang expressions.

Mr. Jamri is the mild-mannered son of the late Sheik Abdul-Amir al-Jamri, once a fiery Shiite protest leader whose photograph is still hung prominently in the meeting rooms of Shiite activists. But Mr. Jamri, now 49, took a different path from his father. He became a mechanical engineer and made the rare personal choice of marrying a Sunni woman of Western tastes who is also a journalist.

He lived and worked in Britain for 20 years before returning to Bahrain at a time when the royal family was trying to finesse a political opening after a previous period of unrest and repression.

He was offered a position in the cabinet, but he decided instead to build Al Wasat, and it has since become the most profitable and only major independent newspaper in this tiny island country. Al Wasat distinguished itself from other newspapers and government television by covering the opposition parties, particularly when they pressed the government over charges that senior officials were buying up beachfront property at rock-bottom prices.

However, over the last few days, after a one-day shutdown and Mr. Jamri’s resignation, Al Wasat has undergone a thorough makeover, emerging as a mouthpiece for the government.

Under a new emergency law, criticism of the government is grounds for closing not only newspapers, but political parties as well.

This week, the government shut the offices of the Waad, a liberal opposition party, and arrested the deputy of the top leader who is himself already in jail. Professional medical and educational associations have been closed in recent days, and four doctors and nurses who have treated wounded demonstrators have been arrested this week, bringing to 11 the number who have been seized since the crackdown began, according to the organization Physicians for Human Rights.

As Mr. Jamri tells the story, his troubles have been building ever since March 14, when the military and masked thugs attacked masses of demonstrators camped out in the central Pearl Square, and Saudi troops entered the country to bolster conservatives in the royal family. “I mediated between the two sides, and both sides used me to reach common ground until March 15,” he said.

Early that morning masked men wielding swords and clubs broke into Al Wasat’s press room and seriously damaged the printing presses. Masked men continued to surround the building over the next week, preventing employees from going to work without a police escort. Mr. Jamri wrote the interior minister asking for a meeting, but got no response. Reporters and editors started working from home, leaving the newsroom understaffed, particularly late at night.

In early April, over a three- or four-day period, e-mails with stories and photographs began surfacing in Al Wasat’s system. They were cleanly written with notes saying they had been edited, and even included a phone number. They were relatively small stories — a person fainting after being beaten at a police checkpoint, a young man being assaulted by unknown assailants.

The catch was that the stories and photographs were taken from other news outlets, some from other countries, with names of people who did not exist. The picture of a car with smashed windows, said to be owned by a doctor attacked by unknown assailants, was actually a car owned by a pro-government member of Parliament whose car suffered damage during last year’s election campaign.

“They were believable news,” Mr. Jamri said. “You see my wife panicking at a checkpoint; people are getting harassed every day. They were not unbelievable, not like stories of explosions of buildings.”

Last Saturday night, pro-government Bahrain TV broadcast what it called an investigative report charging that Al Wasat “deliberately targeted the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

The report said, “It did this by disseminating false news and reporting fabricated events regarding security developments in the Kingdom of Bahrain.” The broadcast highlighted the published stories and photographs next to the original versions in other news media.

“The guy made a mistake,” Mr. Jamri said of a newsman who ran with the stories. “The guy pumped them right to the layout guys, without editors.” He said computer experts had found that all the false stories came from one company in a neighboring Arab country. He said he would identify the company only to the prosecutors when given the chance next week.

“It was the last thing that crossed my mind, that they would attack my presses and then plant things,” he said.

International human rights groups have taken up Mr. Jamri’s cause. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement saying it “condemns the Bahraini government’s strong-arm tactics, which effectively forced a change in a prominent paper’s editorial management.”

Local activists are incensed. “Someone working for the Ministry of Interior put the information in the paper and knew it was wrong,” charged Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. “They wanted him to quit, and the paper has totally changed.”

Bahrain TV has not backed away from its charges, and the government Information Affairs Authority has characterized Bahrain TV’s reporting as fair and thorough. The Bahrain News Agency has posted the fabricated stories on its Web site, with links to the photographs and original reports from which they came.

Last Sunday, the day after the Bahrain TV broadcast, Al Wasat was prohibited from publishing. Mr. Jamri and two other senior editors resigned that night, in hope that the paper could be saved. The next day the paper was allowed to publish and was temporarily edited by two Iraqi editors.

But on Monday, the two Iraqi editors were summoned to the Information Affairs Authority, and then taken to the National Security Agency for seven hours of questioning, according to Mr. Jamri. After they refused to testify that Mr. Jamri deliberately published false information, Mr. Jamri said, they and their families were escorted to the airport and deported without their belongings.

Mr. Jamri says he has not even begun to think about his future. “I’m trying to recover from the shock,” he said. “They are sending a message that nothing is untouchable in Bahrain.”


Obama visits the Lincoln Memorial

The Higher Education Commission controversy


Much noise and fury has been expended regarding the perceived ‘dissolution’ of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Vice Chancellors, academics and students have all given voice (and in some cases rallies) to the apprehension that the HEC’s ‘demise’ would sound the death knell for higher education and in the process undo all the good work the HEC has achieved since it was set up under the Musharraf regime in 2002. The whole hullaballoo was punctured by the chairman of the Implementation Commission on the 18th Amendment, Mian Raza Rabbani, when he informed the Senate that a new commission is being evolved at the federal level to maintain higher education standards. Some of the erstwhile functions of the HEC, especially curriculum, syllabus, policy and planning are being devolved to the provinces. Perhaps some of the fears of the move’s critics are rooted in the fact that it is not yet clear how the provinces will handle these new responsibilities, through what administrative means, etc. The undeniable fact is that after the 18th Amendment, education has been devolved to the provinces. If the provinces at present lack the capacity to manage the new arrangements, this is not an argument for not proceeding along the perfectly desirable path of provincial autonomy, but cause for caution, thought and a systematic approach to the creation of the new structures and means to be put in place at the provincial level.

The HEC replaced its predecessor, the University Grants Commission, and because its first chairman, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman was the blue-eyed boy of Musharraf, the HEC incrementally expanded its role in the growth of universities and funding for postgraduate studies and research. But it also began to invite criticism from academics for micro-managing the universities, arguably going beyond its mandate and in the process eroding the autonomy of the universities. The pell-mell rush towards mushrooming quantitative growth of new universities (including in the private sector) and increased postgraduate studies (PhDs, etc) and research took no account of how the academic requirements of these new institutions and programmes would be met in the absence of a pool of qualified academic manpower and whether the sudden spurt could come up to the desired standard. In other words, the HEC concentrated more on quantity than quality, to the detriment, arguably, of higher education standards in the country. As to the doomsday scenarios being painted of the collapse of all the postgraduate programmes of the HEC because of funding cut-offs, Raza Rabbani has pointed out that all ongoing programmes will continue, funding from federal sources (the Finance Ministry has just released the Rs 7.7 billion allegedly ‘held back’ from the HEC) and foreign donors would be available (confirmed by USAID), and the new Commission for Standard Higher Education would oversee standards and act as a coordinating centre for the functions devolved to the provincial level.

While the caution to proceed step by step down the devolution path to ensure as little disruption as possible is well taken, the devolution thrust of the 18th Amendment must be seen as a historic turn for the country. Those predicting the death of ‘national unity’ because of the perceived threat from the provinces ‘going their own way’ in curriculum, etc, seems premature and exaggerated. In any case, this bemoaned ‘national unity’ has been a false, imposed one in our short history, one that attempted to steamroller over the historically evolved ethnic, linguistic and cultural identities in a multi-national state. No, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, national integrity will not be “crushed” by devolution; what has been crushed so far has been precisely the identities highlighted above. National integration from above, in the name of a spurious national oneness has not worked. Arguably, it is time to allow the evolution of a real national integrity through the voluntary efforts of the federating units, an effort helped by the recognition of their ancient identities that predate the emergence of Pakistan. Does that mean each unit will become a ‘universe unto itself’? Not if the experience of democratic federations (and their opposite) is taken into account. A Pakistan of federating units confident in their (finally) established identities that binds the peoples of the disparate provinces through free and voluntary association, shared history, culture and interests will be a far more stable state than anything we have so far seen in the last 64 years. *

More rich should contribute for welfare work:

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussein said that the province was in dire need of the welfare organizations like Tanzeem Lissail-e-Wal Mahroom (TLWM) adding that support of the private sector and resourceful people in this regard would be welcomed. Speaking in a meeting on presentation regarding the activities of TLWM at Peshawar Saturday, he said, that keeping in view the importance of TLWM, its activities should be extended to other social sectors also so as maximum needy and poorest of the poor of the society could be benefited of it. The presentation besides others was also attended by the Minister for Social Welfare Sitara Ayaz, MPAs Yasmin Zia and Mussrat Shafi Advocate, Chairman TLWM Mohammad Humayun, Secretary Social Welfare Sahibzada Fazle Amin and other authorities concerned. He further directed to prepare proposals and recommendations to make the TLWM more effective and beneficial for the society. Earlier, the chairman of TLWM while briefing the Minister, informed that the TLWM was established in 2007 for the indigent and dispossessed with the aim to protect the poor and vulnerable segments of the society by providing them facilities in the health, education and other social welfare sectors. In the health sector, he told that so far 1591 free medical camps have been set up in different parts of the province where 562139 patients were treated, similarly free dialysis of 17883 patients was done besides treating 555 cancer patients and cataract surgeries of 6440 patients. The TLWM also arranged free medical check-up of 423278 school children through mobile screening. In education sector the TLWM was granting scholarships of Rs.1,000/- upto Matric and Rs.2,000/- per month to post-matric talented orphan students. Likewise in social welfare sector the TLWM was also arranging 6 months courses for the poor people particularly women folk in different fields to make them self reliant. It was also providing supportive equipments to the disabled persons. Mian Iftikhar while eulogizing the activities of TLWM maintained that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was very poor and neglected province of the country and poverty ratio was also high as compared to the other provinces, therefore existence of such useful organization was need of the hour. He added, as our resources were meager, therefore the private sector should extend its help in this regard. The Minister asked the authorities concerned to provide monthly progress report to the government on regular basis so as it could be given vide publicity through media for welfare of the society and the people should also know about the steps taken by the government to ameliorate their lot.

Pakistan's Political System Has Failed'

Libya State TV Shows Gaddafi In School Visit

Egyptians turn anger on army in Cairo protest

Thousands of protesters turned their anger on the army on Saturday demanding that Egypt's ruling military council hand power to civilians and pressing for former President Hosni Mubarak to be put on trial.
The army, which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak was forced out of office on February 11, has become a growing target for a hardcore of protesters who say the generals are colluding with remnants of Mubarak's network and thwarting calls for a deeper purge.
"The military council is part and parcel of the corrupt regime. It is made up of heads of the army that have benefited from Mubarak and his 30 years of robbing the Egyptian people," said Abdullah Ahmed, 45, a protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
The army dismisses such charges and says it is guarding against any attempt by former officials to undermine reforms.
Protester ire was fueled on Saturday after the army tried to clear demonstrators from Tahrir during curfew hours from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Troops and police used tasers and batons. Sounds of gunshots rang out across the square overnight.
Medical sources said two men died out of 15 wounded by gunshots. The army said it only fired blanks and its operation caused no deaths. State television said one person was killed and 71 were wounded in acts of rioting, without giving details.
It was not clear if there were any other armed people in the square when the shots were fired.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had packed into Tahrir on Friday in the biggest protests since February 18, when millions turned out across Egypt to celebrate Mubarak's downfall.
The army met opposition when it tried to rid the square of a few thousand hardy protesters who stayed late into Friday night.
"Thank God, we resisted them (the army), and we are still here," said one protester in Tahrir, which was the epicenter of demonstrations that pushed Mubarak out on February 11.
Hundreds were still in Tahrir by early on Saturday morning. Those numbers rose to several thousand later in the day. "Why is the army beating us? Why is the army firing at us?" protesters chanted overnight when the army moved in, a witness reported.
Some protesters want the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to hand power to a civilian council and have called for the resignation of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the army council. He has stayed on as defense minister after serving for two decades in that post under Mubarak.
"Either Field Marshal Tantawi puts these people -- Mubarak, Gamal (his son), and the others -- on trial, or he leaves his post and lets someone else do it. The slowness of the process makes people suspicious that the army (leadership) might be implicated," said Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, 36, a shop owner.
In scenes reminiscent of the height of protests against Mubarak, three burned-out army vehicles were left in the square. Some protesters, angry at the army's tactics, hurled rocks at the smoldering hulk of one of the army trucks.
"The army is in a tough position. What happened Friday was a result of the army's mismanagement of how to steer the revolution forward, but not complicity with the old Mubarak regime," said Hasan Nafaa, a political science professor who was active in mobilizing the protest movement.
"The army is trying to make a balance between carrying out reforms, purging the old system and maintaining economic and political stability. The army knows well that many key people from Mubarak's era control the economy and have deep roots in society. It is therefore taking measured steps," Nafaa said.
Many ordinary Egyptians are tired of the protests that have hurt the economy and want an end to the disruption.
The ruling military council said police and soldiers had "confronted acts of rioting and implemented a curfew" without causing any loss of life and blamed disturbances on "elements outside the law in Tahrir," the state news agency reported.
The council also said on its Facebook page it had ordered the detention of Ibrahim Kamel, a senior member in Mubarak's party, for "incitement and thuggery by some of his associates that stirred up the people in Tahrir Square" on Friday.
The council said it would "continue with firmness to seek out remnants of the previous regime and National Democratic Party" involved in such acts in order to maintain security.
The military has enjoyed broad support since it took control, but complaints against its rule have grown.
"We condemn the intentional slowness of the military council in meeting demands of the revolution and call on Egyptians to return to Tahrir Square and stay until Mubarak and his followers are arrested and tried," the coalition of youth groups, which drove the initial anti-Mubarak protests, said in a statement.
"We want the army and the system to be purged of all corrupt complicitous officials who want to stop the revolution in its tracks," said Mohamed Noubi, 23, a protester in Tahrir.
Some protesters took barbed wire that had been left unused by the army on Saturday and dragged it across roads leading to the square. As they had done during protests to oust Mubarak, demonstrators started checking IDs of those entering Tahrir.
"We will not leave here again until they take tangible steps to put Mubarak and high officials on trial," said Mohamed Abdul-Karim, 31, a lawyer. He said he was a member of a committee to protect the rights of people injured in protests.
Mubarak and his family are banned from leaving Egypt. The former president, 82, is living in internal exile in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The military had forcibly dispersed protesters before from Tahrir Square. In that case, the military apologized the next day, saying there had been no order to assault the protesters and called the incident unintentional.

US criticizes Saudi Arabia for internet restrictions

The United States criticized Saudi Arabia on Friday for internet restrictions that blocked access to religious websites considered incompatible with Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia was one of numerous countries faulted in the State Department's annual report on human rights that emphasized the growing role of communications technology as a tool for promoting human rights.
The report also highlighted restrictions on the internet in China, Sudan and Vietnam, among other countries.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said as many as 40 governments around the world block citizens from freely browsing the internet.
Bloggers have been subject to arrest and in some cases torture has been used to force individuals to provide passwords and other information about their internet activities, she said.
The report accused Saudi Arabia's official Communications and Information Technology Commission of improperly monitoring email and internet chatrooms and of blocking internet sites devoted to information about Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and forms of Islam that do not comply with Sharia law.
The State Department blasted China for restricting internet access and content and for detaining individuals who express views online that were critical of the government.
Sudan was accused of monitoring internet communications. The report accused Vietnam of using the internet to spy on dissidents and seizing computers and cell phones.
The internet has increasingly become a major instrument for advancing human rights, as social networking sites were seen as playing a key role in the democratic movements in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia.

Saudis hold second day of protests

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of people have demonstrated to denounce the presence of Saudi forces in Bahrain, where they help the Al Khalifa monarchy to crack down on anti-government protesters.

Videos emerging from Saudi Arabia show protest rallies held in Qatif and Awamya cities in Eastern province for the second consecutive day on Saturday.

Protesters condemn the use of 1,000 Saudi forces to suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain, calling for the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops from the country. They also demand the promotion of human rights, freedom of expression and constitutional reforms.

There was no report of clashes or arrests on Friday, although both cities were reportedly surrounded by Saudi troops.

The oil rich Eastern province has been the scene of anti-government protests in recent months.

On March 25, hundreds of protesters hit the streets in the eastern city of Qatif and surrounding villages, demanding the immediate release of what they called forgotten political prisoners. The protesters said the prisoners were being held without trial, some as long as 16 years.

Last month, a Saudi-based human rights group said that authorities had arrested one hundred protesters for taking part or organizing anti-government demonstrations.

Human Rights First Society also revealed that some of the detainees were subject to both physical and mental torture.

UAE blogger who called for reform taken from apartment, says wife

A blogger and political activist who has called for reform in the United Arab Emirates has not been heard from since he was taken from his Dubai apartment Friday, his wife said.
About 10 men, including two wearing police uniforms, picked up Ahmed Mansoor from his apartment Friday afternoon, said his wife, Nadia.
The men also took Mansoor's passport and laptop and left without telling his wife where they were taking him or why.
Lt. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the commander-in-chief of Dubai police, said he was not aware whether Mansoor had been arrested, but promised to look into it.
CNN has also sent queries to other Emirati officials inquiring about Mansoor but have not heard back.
Earlier Friday, three men identifying themselves as police officers were at his apartment building, Mansoor wrote in an email. When he called police asking about the men, he said he was told they had come for his car.
"I told him if they want to take the car, they can do that in the morning, not 2:50 a.m.," he wrote.
The men left. That afternoon, the second group came and took him away.
Mansoor was part of a group of 133 nationals who petitioned the president on March 9 for direct elections.
The group included academics, former government officials, journalists and activists.
The petition was addressed to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the members of the Supreme Council of the seven Emirates that form the UAE.
In addition to elections, the group asked that the Federal National Council be granted legislative powers. The body only works in an advisory capacity and has no regulatory powers.
In March, the UAE announced that Federal National Council elections will be held in September.

Analysis: Budget battle tests Obama's leadership

President Barack Obama

promised to change Washington's ways. Yet he is as caught up in them as ever.
It was just at the start of this week that Obama launched his re-election bid with a sunny video of real people talking about their hopes and needs. It was the very image of life outside Washington politics.
By week's end, Obama was mired in budget negotiations, canceling trips and scrambling to hold off a government shutdown that would surely erode the public's faith in his leadership.
That's the messy business of governing. And this is how it is going to be this time around for incumbent Obama.
Beyond the vision for economic competitiveness he wants to talk about, Obama is seeking a second term while having to engage in the gritty, frustrating process of governing a deeply divided government. He got bogged down in legislative tactics in his first two years, even when he won fights like health care, and is now trying to avoid all that.
Then came this test of leadership. The White House says Obama ultimately got the compromise he wanted — a bill of spending cuts that he supported without having to gut his priorities or swallow policy changes he could not accept. When it all finally came together, the administration offered it up as an example of cooperation under the highest stress.
But it was an exhausting process that left people wondering why the government was somehow on the brink of debacle.
This is change?
The showdown serves as a reminder that for all the powers that come with the presidency, one of the perils is an agenda you cannot control. Crises like Libya, Egypt, Japan's earthquake, Iraq and Afghanistan all demand his attention.
In this case, the new House Republican majority, led by Speaker John Boehner, turned a must-pass budget bill into a political chance to give voice to frustrated voters and tea party conservatives who demanded spending cuts. And suddenly Washington was back in brinksmanship mode again, where nothing gets done until deadline. And sometimes not even then.
In public, Obama tried to keep it at arm's length.
"I shouldn't have to oversee a process in which Congress deals with last year's budget," Obama said as the time got short this week.
But in fact he was involved up to his neck.
It was Obama's veto threat that made clear he would not accept the scope of spending cuts Republicans wanted. It was Obama who said he would accept no more short-term bills to keep the government afloat for a couple weeks at a time unless there was a broader deal in hand. And it was Obama who kept saying it was time for leaders to act like grown-ups.
The White House said his strategy was to stay behind the scenes, work the phones and let his senior aides do the negotiating. That hard-to-see engagement provided a huge opening for Republicans to question his leadership. And it led to rumblings from frustrated lawmakers in his own Democratic Party who wanted Obama to openly attack the cuts Republicans wanted.
The White House figured it would take those hits. In the midst of this conflict and other challenges, a Gallup poll in late March found that an eroding number of people said Obama was a strong and decisive leader: A little more than half of those polled, down from 60 percent one year ago and 73 percent two years ago.
The West Wing thinking was that a better result would come if Obama not try to overheat the issue. They also believed that people across the nation were worried about gas prices, not a messy political squabble over a spending bill and that the voters didn't hire Obama to be a legislator. Obama would go public when it meant the most.
The vocal version of the president emerged on Tuesday.
He said Americans don't want games but rather results, the pragmatic approach. That's the style White House strategists believe will bring back the election-turning independents to Obama. He spoke like a leader who had world troubles on his mind and demanded feuding lawmakers to keep working.
"There are some things we can't control," he said. "We can't control earthquakes; we can't control tsunamis; we can't control uprisings on the other side of the world. What we can control is our capacity to have a reasoned, fair conversation between the parties and get the business of the American people done."
But it wasn't getting done, and his voice was not the only one setting the tone.
"The president isn't leading," Boehner said Wednesday. "He didn't lead on last year's budget, and he clearly is not leading on this year's budget."
Obama met with Boehner and Reid four times in the White House across the week. He kept his plans to travel to the Philadelphia area on Wednesday to talk about energy, looking comfortable and almost carefree as he laughed with workers at a wind-turbine company about their families and their cars.
Yet by Friday, Washington had sucked him back in. He canceled a trip to Indianapolis, scrapping the attention he wanted to give to clean energy.
And then he jettisoned a scheduled weekend getaway with his family to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia while he kept in touch with Boehner and Reid.
While striving to avoid a shutdown, Obama's team privately thought they would come out OK in the public's mind if it came to that.
The thinking was that the president had presented a reasonable case of agreeing to spending cuts without going too far, and that people would frown upon Republicans if the government stopped fully running over an unrelated policy conflict like abortion.
One Gallup poll found that 58 percent of adults, and 60 percent of independents, favored a budget compromise over a shutdown.
But another reality lurked for Obama.
The politics-saturated budget battle graphically demonstrates how government is not supposed to operate. No matter who is to blame, all will be blamed.
The everyday Americans Obama talks about so often just want a Washington that works. That means staying open for business.
And for incumbents with opponents who run the House, it

Shutdown avoided, White House, Congress cheer deal

A last minute budget deal, forged amid bluster and tough bargaining, averted an embarrassing federal shutdown and cut billions in spending — the first major test of the divided government voters ushered in five months ago.
Working late into the evening Friday, congressional and White House negotiators struck an agreement to pay for government operations through the end of September while trimming $38.5 billion in spending. Lawmakers then approved a days-long stopgap measure to keep the government running while the details of the new spending plan were written into legislation.
Actual approval of the deal would come in mid-week.
"Today Americans of different beliefs came together again," President Barack Obama said from the White House Blue Room, a setting chosen to offer a clear view of the Washington Monument over his right shoulder.
The agreement — negotiated by the new Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, the president and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid — came as the administration was poised to shutter federal services, from national parks to tax-season help centers, and to send furlough notices to hundreds of thousands of federal workers. It was a prospect that all sides insisted they wanted to avoid but that at times seemed all but inevitable.
Shortly after midnight, White House budget director Jacob Lew issued a memo instructing the government's departments and agencies to continue their normal operations.
Boehner said the agreement came after "a lot of discussion and a long fight," and he won an ovation from his rank and file, including the new tea party adherents whose victories last November shifted control of the House to the GOP.The deal marked the end of a three-way clash of wills, but it also set the tone for coming confrontations over raising the government's borrowing limit, the 2012 budget and long-term deficit reduction.
At the end of the day, all sides claimed victory — Republicans for the sheer size of the spending cuts and Obama and Reid for jettisoning Republican policy initiatives that would have blocked certain environmental regulations and made changes in a federal program that provides family planning services.
Not all policy "riders" were struck. One provision in the final deal would ban the use of federal or local government funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia. A program dear to Boehner that lets District of Columbia students use federally funded vouchers to attend private schools also survived.
Republicans had also included language to deny federal funding to implement the year-old health care law. The deal only requires such a proposal to be voted on by the Senate where it is certain to fall short of the required 60 votes.
The deal came together after six grueling weeks as negotiators virtually dared each other to shut the government down. Boehner faced pressure from his rank and file to hew as closely to the $61 billion in cuts and the conservative policy positions that the House had approved earlier in the year.
At one point, Democrats announced negotiators had locked into a spending cut figure — $33 billion. But Boehner pushed back, publicly declaring there was no agreement. This week, during a meeting at the White House, Boehner said he wanted $40 billion. The final number fell just short of that.
In one dramatic moment, Obama called Boehner on Friday morning after learning that the outline of a deal they had reached with Reid in the Oval Office the night before was not reflected in the pre-dawn staff negotiations. The whole package was in peril.
According to a senior administration official, Obama told Boehner that they were the two most consequential leaders in the United States government and that if they had any hope of keeping the government open, their bargain had to be honored and could not be altered by staff. The official described the scene on condition of anonymity to reveal behind-the-scenes negotiations.
The accomplishment set the stage for even tougher confrontations. Republicans intend to pass a 2012 budget through the House next week that calls for sweeping changes in Medicare and Medicaid and would cut domestic programs deeply in an attempt to gain control over soaring deficits.
In the Saturday Republican radio address, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., warns of a coming crisis. "Unless we act soon, government spending on health and retirement programs will crowd out spending on everything else, including national security. It will literally take every cent of every federal tax dollar just to pay for these programs."
That debate could come soon. The Treasury has told Congress it must vote to raise the debt limit by summer — a request that Republicans hope to use to force Obama to accept long-term deficit-reduction measures.