Saturday, July 30, 2011

Angelina Jolie gets Sarajevo film festival award

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie was close to tears as she received a special award during an unannounced visit to Sarajevo's film festival Saturday with partner Brad Pitt.

"I will start crying if you don't stop," Oscar-awarded Jolie told the audience who gave her a standing ovation at the city's National Theater.

Jolie chose Bosnia's 1992-95 war as the setting for her first film as a director. "In the Land of Blood and Honey" is due to be released in December.

She has also visited Bosnia as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR and funded the construction of several houses for returnees in eastern Bosnia.

Festival director Mirsad Purivatra presented Jolie with a heart-shaped award when she appeared at the closing ceremony.

"Tonight we are giving the honorary Heart of Sarajevo to a great artist, not only for the great impact she has in the world of cinema but also for persisting and her active engagement in the complexities of the real world we live in," Purivatra said.

Jolie, dressed in a long peach dress, stood on stage with eyes full of tears waiting for the clapping to die down.

"I told Brad in the car I was afraid I was going to cry," she said, her voice breaking.

Jolie's film tells the story of a love affair between a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) woman and a Serb, who were on opposite warring sides during the conflict.

She planned to shoot parts of the film in Sarajevo and engaged a local crew. But she had to move to Budapest after some female victims of sexual violence objected to details in the plot and Bosnian authorities canceled a filming permit.

"I am so honored to be here at this festival," Jolie said after receiving the award. "There is no greater example of the strengths of the artists and the festival that began during the war and grew stronger every year."

The Sarajevo film festival was launched toward the end of the Bosnian capital's 43-month siege by Bosnian Serb forces.

Jolie presented Austrian actor Thomas Schubert with the award for the best actor for his role in the film "Atmen," directed by Karl Markovics.

Atmen, about a young offender searching for his mother, was also named best film in the festival.

Romanian actress Ada Condeascu won the prize for best actress for her role in the film "Loverboy."

Quetta incident provokes protests

An angry mob protested against the killing of eleven people including three women Saturday, Geo News reported. The mob caused damage to property while different political parties mourned the incident. A shutter down strike call was given by the Hazara Democratic Party.

According to police, gunmen opened fire on a van and a rickshaw as a result of which fourteen including two women were injured. Three of these individuals died on the spot while eight including one woman succumbed to their injuries on the way to the hospital.

The injured were taken to the Bolan Medical Complex. The relatives of the victims arrived at the hospital and protested against the incident blocking the Barori Road.

The angry mob burnt three cars and a motorcycle on the road and threw stones at cars. Some individuals of the mob also fired at Bolan Medical Complex and the area was cordoned off by police and FC personnel. Tear gas was used to disperse the protesters.

The incident was condemned by the Governor and Chief Minister of Balochistan along with the Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party. Leader of the Hazara Democratic Party, Abdul Khaliq Hazara appealed to people to remain calm and protest peacefully.

Meanwhile the police informed the media that several people had been arrested in connection with the firing incident on Sariab Road which took place on Friday and a complete investigation would be conducted into this incident as well.

Obama Presses Both Parties to Compromise on Debt

US president repeats view that crisis can be solved, but only if Democrats, Republicans work together

Democrats, Republicans disagree on state of debt talks

Top congressional Democrats and Republicans disagreed Saturday over whether any progress was being made on a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, held a 4 p.m. ET afternoon press conference in which they both said a deal was close. Two hours later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, asserted the claims of his Republican counterparts were simply "not true."
The Republicans are holding "meaningless press conferences" and "refuse to negotiate in good faith," Reid said. "The process has not been moved forward during this day."
"I'm more optimistic than my friend the majority leader," McConnell replied. "I think we've got a chance of getting there."McConnell spoke with Vice President Joe Biden several times Saturday, according to a senior administration official. Boehner talked to Obama Friday night, a GOP aide told CNN. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, huddled behind closed doors with Obama at the White House.
The varied assessments of the state of play came shortly after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Reid's debt ceiling plan Saturday afternoon -- partisan payback for the Democratic-controlled Senate's rejection of Boehner's plan Friday night.
Reid's plan needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and with 246 "yes" votes it fell short. One hundred seventy-three voted against it. Most Democrats supported the measure; every Republican voted against it.
The Senate voted 59-41 Friday evening to table Boehner's measure -- effectively killing it only hours after the House approved it in a 218-210 vote. Most Republicans supported the Boehner plan while Democrats unanimously opposed it.
GOP leaders in the House were forced to delay the vote on Boehner's bill by a day while the speaker rounded up support from wary tea party conservatives. Boehner's deal with conservatives -- adding a provision requiring congressional approval of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in order to raise the debt limit next year -- was sharply criticized by Democrats, who called it a political nonstarter.
Boehner's "gone to the dark side," Pelosi said Saturday. "Let's go from the dark side to the bright side."
Despite the House's pre-emptive rejection of the Reid plan, Senate Democrats say they are moving forward with its consideration. The Senate is tentatively scheduled to take up Reid's proposal beginning at 1 a.m. ET on Sunday -- part of that chamber's arcane procedural path required to get something passed before the Treasury runs out of funds.
Any proposal put forward by Reid will ultimately need the support of at least seven Senate Republicans in order to reach the 60-vote margin required to overcome a certain GOP filibuster.
Forty-three of the Senate's 47 Republicans sent a letter to Reid Saturday promising to oppose his plan as currently drafted. Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Massachusetts' Scott Brown, and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski declined to sign it.
McConnell urged Reid early Saturday afternoon to hold a quick vote on his bill in order to clear the way for new talks.Your plan "will not pass the Senate. It will not pass the House It is simply a nonstarter," McConnell told Reid on the Senate floor. "Hold the vote here and now" and let's "not waste another minute of the nation's time."
Reid responded by accusing the Republicans of wasting time on the Boehner plan, and criticized the Senate GOP for not allowing his plan to be considered with a simple majority vote.
"The two parties must work together to forge an agreement that preserves this nation's economy," Reid said. "My door is still open."
Democratic leaders vehemently object not only to the balanced budget amendment, but also the GOP's insistence that a second debt ceiling vote be held before the next election. They argue that reaching bipartisan agreement on another debt ceiling hike during an election year could be nearly impossible, and that short-term extensions of the limit could further destabilize the economy.
Obama urged compromise Friday, and asked Senate Democrats and Republicans on Friday to take the lead in the congressional deliberations.
"This is not a situation where the two parties are miles apart," the president insisted. But "we are almost out of time."
As the political maneuvering continues, the clock continues to tick down. If Congress fails to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2, Americans could face rising interest rates and a declining dollar, among other problems.
Some financial experts have warned of a downgrade of America's triple-A credit rating and a potential stock market plunge. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped for a sixth straight day on Friday.
Without an increase in the debt limit, the federal government will not be able to pay all its bills next month. Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time.
Leaders of both parties now agree that any deal to raise the debt ceiling should include long-term spending reductions to help control spiraling deficits. But they still differ on both the timetable and requirements tied to certain cuts.
Both the Reid and Boehner plans suffered setbacks earlier this week when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released reports concluding that they fell short of their stated deficit reduction goals.
Boehner's plan, which has since been revised, proposed generating a total of $917 billion in savings while initially raising the debt ceiling by $900 billion. The speaker has pledged to match any debt ceiling hike with dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.His plan, however, would require a second vote by Congress to raise the debt ceiling by a combined $2.5 trillion -- enough to last through the end of 2012. It would create a special congressional committee to recommend additional savings of $1.6 trillion or more.
Any failure on the part of Congress to enact mandated spending reductions or abide by new spending caps would trigger automatic across-the-board budget cuts.
The plan, as amended Friday, also calls for congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment before the second vote to raise the debt ceiling, which would likely be required at some point during the winter.
As for Reid's plan, a revised version he proposed Friday would reduce deficits over the next decade by $2.4 trillion and raise the debt ceiling by a similar amount. It includes $1 trillion in savings based on the planned U.S. withdrawals from military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reid's plan also would establish a congressional committee made up of 12 House and Senate members to consider additional options for debt reduction. The committee's proposals would be guaranteed by a Senate vote with no amendments by the end of the year.
In addition, it incorporates a process based on a proposal by McConnell that would give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two steps while providing Congress the opportunity to vote its disapproval.
Among other things, Reid has stressed that his plan meets the key GOP demand for no additional taxes. Boehner, however, argued this week that Reid's plan fails to tackle popular entitlement programs such as Medicare, which are among the biggest drivers of the debt.
A recent CNN/ORC International Poll reveals a growing public exasperation and demand for compromise. Sixty-four percent of respondents to a July 18-20 survey preferred a deal with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. Only 34% preferred a debt reduction plan based solely on spending reductions.
According to the poll, the public is sharply divided along partisan lines; Democrats and independents are open to a number of different approaches because they think a failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a major crisis for the country. Republicans, however, draw the line at tax increases, and a narrow majority of them oppose raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

'What's the big fuss over Khar's fashion?'

She is rich, stylish, and travels the world - so what's the big deal about Pakistan's youngest and first female foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar's Birkin bag, Roberto Cavalli shades and Jimmy Choo heels that were on view during her visit here, ask Indian and Pakistani designers.

Her classic black Hermes' Birkin could cost anything above $10,000-$15,000, her Roberto Cavalli shades cost over $500 and the Jimmy Choo heels over $900.

Karachi-based designer Huma Adnan admits Khar, whose three-day trip to India concluded Thursday, is one of the most stylish politicians in her country, but finds it strange that there is so much discussion in India over her dressing."I know Hina for the past 15 years. She is a public figure with a very conservative and neat look. Her sense of using right accessories makes her different from other politicians. But the fact that she wears high-end brands should not be a topic of discussion. She belongs to a rich family, owns property in why not," Adnan asked while speaking to us over the phone.

When Khar landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here Tuesday for talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, her blue ensemble, teamed with a simple string of pearls, oversized handbag and shades grabbed many eyeballs.

A post-graduate in hospitality and tourism from the University of Massachusetts, Khar has her roots in a wealthy feudal family of southern Punjab and owns Lahore's posh Polo Lounge, a haunt of the rich and the powerful.

In past appearances across the border, she has been spotted sporting bags from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo.

Designer Fahad Hussayn from Lahore said: "I believe a woman always picks up an accessory that is driven by her persona. And with how she carries herself, you can tell the style statement is not newly acquired."

Khar likes her subdued, yet stylish dressing - something she proved with the cream ensemble she wore during India-Pakistan talks here.

Aamna Isani, a senior fashion journalist from Karachi, feels proud that Indians are lauding Khar's dress sense.

"It's good to know that a Pakistani leader is emerging as a style icon. The last fashion icon we had was Benazir Bhutto, who represented a perfect mixture of style and grace," Isani told us.

Tens of thousands protest cost of living in Israel

Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in 10 cities across the country on Saturday evening to protest against the high cost of living, AFP correspondents reported.
More than 30,000 demonstrated in downtown Tel Aviv as thousands more marched in Jerusalem, in the northern city of Haifa and in Nazareth.
Organisers of the protests said that five thousand were marching in Jerusalem towards the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, carrying banners that read "A whole generation wants a future."
Demonstrations over the high cost of living spread in recent weeks throughout Israel, with demonstrators setting up protest camps to demand affordable housing and denounce social inequalities.
On Thursday protesters occupied the roof of the Tel Aviv stock exchange, a day after the powerful Histadrut labour union threw its support behind the demonstrators.
Histadrut said it was issuing Netanyahu with an ultimatum.
"If by Saturday evening, the prime minister has failed to meet with our secretary general Ofer Eini to discuss solutions to lift this social crisis, Histadrut will use all means at our disposal to support the demands of the protesters," a spokeswoman for the union told AFP earlier this week.
She declined to say whether Histadrut would call on its members to join a general strike announced by Israel's Union of Local Authorities on Wednesday.
The August 1 one-day strike will see local authority offices shut down and rubbish collections halted.
Since 2004, Israel's economic growth rate has averaged 4.5 percent, while unemployment has fallen to around six percent from close to 11 percent over the same period.
But gaps between Israel's rich and poor are among the widest in the Western world. In 2011, Israel ranked fifth for unequal income distribution among the 34 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Netanyahu was forced to cancel a trip to Poland this week to address demonstrators and offered them reforms which they rejected as insufficient.

Afghans arrest Taliban leader, army turncoat

A senior Defense Ministry official who allegedly leaked secrets that helped the Taliban stage suicide attacks in Kabul has been arrested by the Afghan Intelligence Service — one of three high profile arrests announced Saturday by the agency.
A spokesman also said a senior Taliban official accused of leading an insurgent propaganda campaign in eastern Afghanistan, and an insurgent who allegedly helped organize an April 1 attack against the U.N. headquarters in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that killed 11 people, including seven foreign U.N. employees.
Infiltration has become a serious concern for Afghan forces and the U.S.-led military alliance that is training them — often on bases they share. The Taliban have said the practice has become one of their main strategies in their war against the U.S.-led coalition and President Hamid Karzai's government.
Several attacks involving bombers wearing military uniforms have targeted foreign troops as well as official Afghan institutions, including an April suicide bombing by an attacker wearing an army uniform that killed three people at the Defense Ministry.
The intelligence service recently arrested Gul Mohammad, an army officer who was serving at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul, the agency's spokesman Lutifullah Mashal said at a news conference.
Mohammad, who was an eight-year veteran of the army, was in charge of three checkpoints in the capital — one near NATO headquarters and the presidential palace, and two others on a road where the coalition has many bases and training facilities.
Mashal said insurgents offered Mohammad 200,000 Pakistanis rupees ($2,300) to help organize suicide attacks in Kabul. Many of the suicide bombers operating inside Afghanistan are thought to be trained in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, which border provinces such as Nuristan and Nangarhar.
Mashal did not give Mohammad's rank or provide any other details about his role at the ministry, but said he was from the Taliban-controlled Waygal district in northeastern Nuristan province. Mashal said Mohammad is also thought to have supplied insurgents in the area with information on Afghan army troop movements.
He said Maulvi Rahimullah, who was allegedly responsible for the media, publication department and Internet services for a Taliban shura, or council, based in Peshawar, Pakistan, had been detained. Rahimullah, who was from the Pachir Wagam district of eastern Nangarhar province, also was a member of that shura, Mashal said.
According to Mashal, he also went by the alias Azrat Bilal and was reportedly the Taliban deputy shadow governor of Nangarhar in charge of recruiting in four eastern Afghan provinces. The third man arrested was identified as a suspected weapons supplier named Maulvi Sabor who was arrested in Balkh province.
Mashal said all the arrests occurred in areas where the international military coalition has transferred responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Two provinces and five provincial capitals were turned over to government forces earlier this month, part of a gradual handover of responsibility that will lead to full Afghan control by the end of 2014, when foreign combat troops are to leave the country.
"This is a good achievement for Afghan forces in these area, and a loss for the enemies who are trying to attack in those places where the transition of forces is taking place," Mashal said.
But violence continued around the country unabated.
Insurgents killed seven Afghan soldiers and a translator alongside two NATO service members in a bombing and ambush Friday in eastern Paktia province, according to the deputy provincial governor Abdul Rahman Mangal. He said the group was on patrol in the Zurmat district.
Police acting on tips in Kunar province also intercepted six would-be suicide bombers who local residents said were on their way to conduct an attack in the provincial capital of Asadabad, said Wasifullah Wasify. The provincial spokesman said one attacker blew himself up outside the vehicle on a road in Khas Kunar district, injuring one policeman. Police shot and killed two attackers and arrested two others, but one escaped, he said.

Pakistan puts travel curbs on US diplomats

Pakistan has placed new travel restrictions on American diplomats living in the country, a U.S. official said Saturday, in the latest sign of the breakdown in ties between Islamabad and Washington since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan reacted furiously to the May 2 bin Laden raid deep inside the country because it was carried out with no warning to authorities in Islamabad. The fallout battered an already frayed relationship seen as key to the fight against al-Qaida and Washington's hopes of reaching a settlement in Afghanistan and withdrawing troops.
Islamabad sent home at least 90 U.S. soldiers training Pakistani troops in counterinsurgency and severely cut back on intelligence cooperation. The Obama administration, which took office pledging to strengthen ties with Islamabad, announced it was cutting more than one-third of its military aid to the country.
While Washington's large civilian aid program has been unaffected, the move to restrict diplomats' movements adds a new irritant to the relationship and suggests military-to-military tensions are bleeding into the civilian sphere.
A letter from the Foreign Ministry sent to the American Embassy last month states that all of its diplomats must now apply for special permission to leave the capital five days in advance of travel, including visits to cities where America has consulates.
Such curbs appear to be an unusual step between friendly states. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations requires host states to allow foreign diplomats "freedom of movement" in the country except for restricted areas. Other foreigners living in Pakistan are free to travel around most of the country.
There are ways, however, to restrict the movement of diplomats without violating the convention.
The letter, dated June 13, was obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday. The AP obtained a second letter dated this month from the Civil Aviation Authority to security officers at Benazir Bhutto International Airport instructing them to carry out the Foreign Ministry order.
A U.S. official confirmed the new restrictions and said the embassy was working with the government to resolve the issue. He did not give his name because of the sensitivity of the relationship at present.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said it was concerned about the restrictions and in a statement called on Pakistan "to ensure freedom of travel to diplomatic personnel."
It was unclear if other foreign missions in Islamabad had also received a similar notice.
In response to a question, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that no "U.S.-specific restrictions have been applied." It said Pakistan was fully mindful of its obligations under the Vienna Convention and was discussing the issue with the embassy.
Earlier this month, at least one carload of American diplomats was refused entry to Peshawar, the main northwestern city. Other diplomats have been able to travel unhindered outside Islamabad since the letter was sent, the American official said.
The United States is nominally a partner with Pakistan, but many Pakistanis, including those in the government, media and armed forces, regard it with mistrust or hostility. The bin Laden raid, and the shooting deaths of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor in January, were taken as more signs that Washington has malevolent intentions in the country.
The fact that bin Laden had been hiding in an army town close to the capital only reinforced suspicions in Washington that Pakistan was an unreliable partner in the fight against al-Qaida. There are also growing frustrations with Islamabad over its refusal to act against powerful militant factions in the northwest that are killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan but pose no immediate threat to Pakistan.

Peshawar Artisan Training School, academy on the anvil.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Culture and Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussein, has said that the provincial government had launched a traditional loan scheme for the artists and

of this province so as to revive our old and indigenous art and culture which was on the verge of collapse due to our negligence.The said scheme in the 1st phase would be introduced in Peshawar and Malakand Divisions and would gradually be extended to the entire province, he added.He was chairing a meeting regarding traditional loan scheme at Peshawar. Besides others, the meeting was also attended by the Secretary Culture and Information, Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Provincial Chief Executive SMEDA, Javed Iqbal Khattak and Director Culture, Pervez Khan.

The meeting thoroughly debated upon the ways and means for issue of loans besides discussing its different aspects. The meeting was informed that pattern of Bacha Khan Khpal Rozgar Scheme would be adopted for the said scheme. The Chief Executive SMEDA on this occasion presented viable and useful suggestions and assured his full support in this regard.The culture minister maintained that the government was mulling to establish academy to be named Artisan Training School where besides giving training work on up gradation of old arts and skill would also be made.Similarly, those completing training in said school would be given grants so as they could earn their livelihood in a dignified manner, he continued.Mian Iftikhar Hussein further said that display area adjacent to the said institute would also be reserved when the artists exhibit their art and get access to the national as well as international market.He added that the eligible arts and skills would be officially notified and only the eligible artists could get the loans. He clarified that the artists would not be restricted to loans but possible help would also be extended to them.The Minister asserted that the nations, loosing their cultural values and traditions cease to exist, therefore, we would revive our old and indigenous culture and eradicate the menace of terrorism and militancy and other social evils by promoting our culture and traditions, he concluded.

Large Portion of Afghan Drug Money Goes to Traffickers: UN

A top UN anti-drugs official said on Friday that most of the Afghan drug money goes into the pockets of traffickers, stressing that strict border control will help curtail the illicit trade.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in an introduction to a new study, Global Afghan Opium Trade - A Threat Assessment, that curtailing the drug trade would benefit the Afghan people and the world.

"Trafficking in Afghan opiates is... very lucrative, generating some $61 billion in illicit funds in 2009 out of $68 billion for the global illicit opiate trade," according to the report.

"Most of this money went into the pockets of traffickers all along the transnational heroin distribution routes, and some went to insurgents." Afghan farmers earn relatively little from the trade, the report noted.

Heroin takes the bulk of the market, with 12 million to 13 million people consuming 375 tonnes of heroin per year; of that, 150 tonnes are consumed in Europe.

Afghanistan remains the hub for opium and heroin production in the world.

"Strengthening border controls at the most vulnerable points, such as along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan's Baluchistan province, could help stem the largest flows of heroin, opium and precursor chemicals," Fedotov said.

"Increasing the capacity to monitor and search shipping containers in airports, seaports and dry ports at key transit points and in destination countries could improve interdiction rates."

The UN official also suggested a need for building capacity and fostering intelligence sharing between ports and law enforcement authorities in key countries and regions.

World's most expensive wine sold

The heat is on in Russia

Heatwave hits Russia.

Pakistan shooting 11 killed

Sectarian violence in Quetta kills 11, wounds 3.

Democrats try to break debt impasse

Senate Democrats aimed to seize the initiative in efforts to head off a ruinous debt default by pushing their deficit-cutting plan on Saturday toward a possible compromise with a divided Republican Party.

Entrenched differences were still hampering a compromise as Democratic leaders accused their Republican counterparts of obstructionism, less than 100 hours before the government says it will run out of money to pay all its bills.

President Barack Obama used his presidential pulpit for the second time this week to urge rival lawmakers to strike a deal and avert what he has said would be an "inexcusable" default.

"There are multiple ways to resolve this problem," Obama said in his weekly address. "Congress must find common ground on a plan that can get support from both parties in the House. And it's got to be a plan that I can sign by Tuesday."

The debt saga shifted to the Senate late on Friday after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a deficit-cutting bill, breaking weeks of political inertia.

The Democratic-controlled Senate quickly killed that bill, as expected, but its earlier approval by the House lifted hopes that it could form part of a final compromise.

The mood in the Senate quickly soured, however, as Democratic leaders angrily accused Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of refusing to talk to them.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid modified his plan, taking elements of an earlier McConnell proposal with the hopes of picking up Republican votes.

But he declined McConnell's offer to vote on it immediately -- a sign that Reid does not yet have enough support.

The Senate now is expected to hold that vote early Sunday morning, setting up final passage on Monday morning, shortly before U.S. financial markets open.

The House has scheduled a vote for around 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) Saturday on a version of Reid's plan.

The government could run out of money to pay all its bills on Tuesday unless Congress agrees to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

"The country's in crisis. This is not a time for politics as usual," Democratic Senator Charles Schumer told a news conference.


Despite the harsh rhetoric, there are hopes that back-channel talks will yield a compromise over the weekend. Democrats say many rank-and-file Republicans are willing to compromise even if McConnell isn't.

McConnell wants to make sure the White House is involved to assure that any final package will make it past Obama's desk, Republican aides said.

"We are headed for a debt ceiling extension," said David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors in Sarasota, Florida. "The risk is that some accident causes actual default. It's not likely but possible."

Investors and foreign governments are likely to remain on edge, though, as procedural hurdles will make it hard for Congress to send a deal to Obama until Monday night.

Reid's revised proposal, which would cut $2.2 trillion over 10 years, incorporates parts of a "backup plan" first proposed by McConnell. The new version would essentially give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in three stages to cover U.S. borrowing needs through the 2012 elections when he is running for a second term.

Obama and his Democrats had hoped to avoid multiple votes before the election.

The world has watched in growing alarm as political gridlock in Washington has brought the world's largest economy close to an unprecedented national default, threatening to plunge world markets and economies into turmoil.

U.S. stocks endured their worst week in a year as the uncertainty made investors shy away from riskier assets and the dollar slumped to a record low against the safe-haven Swiss franc. Much worse could be in store if a U.S. debt deal doesn't appear to be on track by the time markets open on Monday.

A late deal also raises the prospect of the United States losing its top-notch AAA credit rating, which could rattle markets and raise borrowing costs for Americans struggling with unemployment above 9 percent.

Obama has rejected suggestions that he could invoke emergency measures to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling in the event the parties fail to bridge their sharp ideological differences over taxes and spending.

With a final deal still in doubt, the government has begun to prepare Wall Street banks for the possible consequences of a default. One of the first casualties could be a planned quarterly sale of $42 billion in new Treasury bonds that might have to be delayed or canceled.

Some U.S. companies and private equity firms are also hitting the pause button on deals, fearing that a failure to reach a deal could raise financing costs.

"It's definitely having a chilling impact on people's ability to get deals done right now," said one top investment banker who declined to be identified.

No confrontation between judiciary and government: Justice Javed

Senior Supreme Court Judge, Justice Javed Iqbal says there is no confrontation between the government and judiciary, Geo News reported.

The government has not disobeyed any orders of the Supreme Court however there has been a delay in their implementation. Justice Javed said the Supreme Court and Army were not playing any combined role.

Justice Javed Iqbal was being honoured by the Punjab Bar Council and said media hype was behind the creation of a possible confrontation between the judiciary and government and it was wrong to say that the government did not obey Supreme Court orders.

The main priorities of the Supreme Court are to uphold the constitution, rule of law and eliminate corruption. He added that this was also the attention of the government.

Speaking on relations with the army, Justice Iqbal said that the Supreme Court was proud of the armed forces.

'Bahrain regime - loss-loss situation'

There were expectations that the Bahraini regime would make changes, some concessions, and try to work with the opposition. Are those expectations being met?

Press TV interviews Syed Ali Wasif, Professor of International Law and Politics, about the revolution in Bahrain and the Saudi role in the regime clampdown on the people of Bahrain.

Press TV What about this, Mr. Wasif our guest said he would have thought that the regime would have tried to make some changes. Why didn't the regime try to work at all with the opposition? Did they think that by not working together, that the opposition was basically going to go away? How do you see the line that Bahraini government has taken in all of this?

Wasif Simply bad intentions, the government of Bahrain is not sincere with its people, with the opposition, and with the international community. The only thing that the government of Bahrain did, in the name of reform, was a sham reform, and to let out the pressure from within, and from outside.

It was the international pressure from international human rights groups, international human rights organizations, from the international community, so that is why they allowed some kind of demonstrations today, and earlier.

They release couple of prisoners, but still how could you have reforms, or meaningful dialogue, without the presence of the leadership of mainly al-Wafaq and other opposition groups?

Secondly in the presence of the military intervention of the Saudi occupying forces. And thirdly without giving a huge share of political space to the opposition, in Bahrain, so I think that is totally sham.

And the Bahraini government seems to be buying some more time in order to ease some tensions, in order to ease the pressure it has been going through for a while.

Press TV Let me jump in here, you said ; they are trying to buy some more time, buying more time to accomplish what with this type of tactic that is being used?

Wasif Buying time to accomplish - to crush the opposition, to appease the American government, and the White House Administration, to appease the international organizations, especially human rights organizations, and that is how they are doing it.

The problem is, they basically are under the pressure from the US Congress and the US different departments. I am asking the US departments and the US Congress that if they allowed the Polish Catholic clerical intervention in the movement for democracy in Poland, and in Nicaragua, why are they wary of the involvements of the Bahraini clerics in this movement? It has nothing to do with a negative aspect there.

So if they could allow Catholic clergy to participate in politics in the Philippines, in Nicaragua, in Poland, then why are the Americans wary about the participation, and involvement of the clerics in Bahrain? So that is why I think the Bahraini government is taking advantage of, and trying to buy more time for that.

Press TV What about that - that Washington is basically reassessing their priorities, not only in Bahrain, but it appears that in countries where the Arab revolutions are in progress, now the protestors more and more are chanting anti US slogans, and demanding Washington to stop interfering in their affairs. However, it was not the case at the beginning of any of these revolutions. Why do you think that is the case right now?

Wasif Paranoia, the specific mind set of the White House administration, which sees different events in different parts of the Middle East, with a specific goggle, with a specific perspective, that is the perspective of supporting despotic dictatorial and brutal regimes in that region.

So this is the main focus of those sitting in the White House, and the aides to the White House - to the President of the US.

Press TV What about the people themselves I am talking about, at the beginning of these revolutions, even we saw in Egypt, we see in Yemen, and Libya, and Bahrain.

That at the beginning the people really did not start off with anti-American slogans, but more and more in all these movements, we are starting to hear more and more anti-American slogans. Why do you think that is the case?

Wasif Simply, every now and then I meet with the so called “specialist on the Middle East” here, in the Washington D. C. area. They don't know the language of the region, they have never been to that region, they do not know the political dynamics of that region, and still they are recognize as an expert in the Middle Eastern affairs.

So is the case with Obama aides, and different administration people there in the Obama Administration and the White House as well. This is the problem, they cannot conceive a Middle East without the support of a dictator.

And that is why in the short run they are doing okay, but in the long run, it's a total loss-loss, situation, to the US foreign policy and to the US national interests in that region.

It’s Up to the Senate


It was hard to imagine that the House bill to raise the debt limit, and slash and burn the economy, could get any worse. But on Friday it did.

The bill, which narrowly passed the House with 218 Republican votes and none from Democrats, would allow the government to keep borrowing only until November or December and then require both the Senate and the House to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the limit could be raised again.

That’s right, in a bid to win over his recalcitrant caucus, Speaker John Boehner agreed to go through all of this again in just a few months — and then hold the country hostage to passing an amendment that will never get the two-thirds of each chamber that it would need. The bill was, as it should have been, promptly dismissed by the Senate.

Now the only hope left for avoiding default on Tuesday is for the Senate to piece together a compromise that can pass with bipartisan majorities in both chambers. It will undoubtedly cut far too much, at a time when the economy can’t afford it. It will contain no needed revenue increases and could still trigger a downgrade. But it would eliminate the imminent threat of financial chaos.

For six months, House leaders catered to their Tea Party members, perhaps hoping that they could turn them to a reasonable path, or at least count on their votes in a clinch. That wish crumbled on Thursday night. At least two dozen Republicans, mostly freshmen, adamantly refused Mr. Boehner’s pleas to support his bill — his last shot at keeping the House’s positions relevant.

Instead of worsening the bill, Mr. Boehner could have negotiated with Democrats to construct one with a chance of resolving the standoff and passing in the Senate. But concerned largely with preserving his position, he gave in to the very lawmakers who have been insisting for weeks that the Obama administration is lying about the coming default. That argument alone should have given him pause about giving in to their demands.

The Senate quickly tabled the revised House bill. The legislation being prepared by Harry Reid, the majority leader, would raise the debt ceiling through March 2013. That avoids another showdown, and potential meltdown, in the middle of the crucial retail shopping period and at the start of the presidential campaign cycle, when Washington will be even less open to rational compromise.

The bill would cut the deficit by about $2.4 trillion over the next decade. Unlike the House bill, it spares Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from benefit cuts, and counts the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as part of its savings, easing the burden on domestic programs. Unfortunately, it surrenders to the unrealistic Republican demand of no new revenues, cutting too much spending at a time when the economy is still in serious need of government help.

Mr. Reid is negotiating with Republicans on their demands for an enforcement mechanism to make sure the deficit cuts take place in the later years of the deal. Both parties envision a bipartisan panel that could recommend cuts; if those are not adopted, some kind of automatic cuts would go into effect. This automatic knife can be dangerous, arbitrarily cutting without regard to economic circumstances. Democrats should insist that taxes and revenues are not ruled out as a way to lower the deficit.

The House planned a deliberately obstructionist vote on Saturday against the Reid bill, but some Senate Republicans are signaling they are willing to agree to this more reasonable framework. If enough of them can join the Democrats and ignore the bleats of the Tea Party, it may still be possible to avert calamity.

US Senate kills Republican debt plan

The Democrat-led US Senate has voted to set aside a House-passed Republican bill to avert a potential ruinous debt default, setting the stage for weekend talks on forging a compromise plan.

Legislators voted 59-41 against Republican House Speaker John Boehner's measure to raise the $14.3 trillion US debt ceiling in two stages to enable Washington to pay its bills past a Tuesday deadline.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped Republican Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would help work out a final deal, the outlines of which were far from clear with the clock ticking down.

The US economy hit its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling on May 16 and has used spending and accounting adjustments, as well as higher-than-expected tax receipts, to continue operating normally - but can only do so through Tuesday.

Twenty-two House Republicans joined all 188 Democrats voting in opposing Boehner's legislation, while 218 Republicans backed it - eking out the 216 votes needed for passage in the lower chamber.

A key sticking point was the duration of any debt limit increase: Reid and his Senate allies rejected Boehner's plan in large part because it would set the stage for another high-stakes showdown in a few months.

"We cannot be in this battle all the time," said Reid, whose own plan would spare Obama another politically fraught debt battle as he seeks a second term in the November 2012 elections.

Boehner's bill had sought to pair raising the debt ceiling by $900bn with spending cuts of some $917bn over 10 years, while requiring later debt limit increases be tied to congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution for ratification by the 50 states.

Reid, whose Democrats oppose tying the debt limit to such amendment, has offered a blueprint that would raise the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion while cutting spending by some $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

Working on compromise formula

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Capitol Hill, said the tussle will continue for some time as the two sides fail to make substantial progress towards a compromise.

"The Senate majority leader has already called this bill dead on arrival. The White House believes that if there is a compromise, it will have to come from the upper chamber of the congress," she said.

Reid has said a short-term solution is unacceptable and his own bill that would cut $2.2 trillion in spending over 10 years is expected to be amended to make it more palatable to moderate Republicans in the House.

The door is now open for talks on a compromise. If a compromise is worked out, a final vote in the Senate could take place as early as Monday or by midday on Tuesday, a Senate Democratic aide told Reuters.

The delays make it impossible for congress to strike a deal and send it Obama's desk until the 11th hour, injecting a dangerous level of uncertainty into already rattled financial markets. A late deal also raises the prospect that the United States will lose its top-notch AAA credit rating.

Administration officials say congress must find a compromise to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday or the government will run out of cash to pay its bills. That could prompt an unprecedented federal default, which could rattle the economy.