Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bashar al-Assad's regime faces growing pressure to relinquish power in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad's regime faces growing pressure to relinquish power in Syria.

Journalists freed from Tripoli hotel

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have allowed all journalists to leave Tripoli's Rixos hotel, after they were confined there for at least five days.

About 26 journalists were released after representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened on Wednesday.

Confirming the development, Al Jazeera's Evan Hill said the hotel was still controlled by Gaddafi loyalists. A witness told Hill the journalists were taken away from the hotel in “four to five” cars.Associated Press journalists said they had left the Rixos in a car and were moving to another hotel.

Those captured inside the hotel described running battles in the area for days as well as intermittent electricity.

Matthew Price of BBC News said: "I got to one point some time on Monday when I thought: they're going to use this hotel as a barracks for the army for one last stand.

"If they do that, what's going to happen to us? We found out we had no viable escape route. In the middle of all this violence, with the battle flaring up around us which we could hear but not see, it created this sense of paranoia."

The journalists had been held at gunpoint by two nervous Kalashnikov-wielding guards who refused to give up their posts despite rebel victories elsewhere in the city.

They were sleeping huddled on the floor in one wing of the hotel to protect each other for fear of people being attacked in their rooms. They had packed their belongings in case of need for a sudden departure.

The hotel had been a base for pro-Gaddafi forces.

Afghan President denounces using children as suicide bombers

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday met with 20 children who had been recruited by anti- government militants to conduct suicide attacks but had been arrested by security forces before committing suicide bombings.

Condemning using children as suicide bombers an "act against Islam, violation of human rights and oppressing children," Karzai said that militants fighting the Afghan government are trying to bring suicide bombers and destroy the country.

Sitting in a courtyard of his Palace, President Karzai personally asked each of the teen ages 6 to 18 the reason for driving him to become suicide bombers.

One of the children said, "Taliban recruited me and told me to carry out suicide attack in Afghanistan and straight go to Paradise."

President Karzai also ordered his aides to help the detained children get education, find home or be released to their families.

Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops often rely on deadly suicide attacks and roadside bombings.

In the latest waves of the deadly suicide attacks, the Taliban militants stormed British cultural center or the British Council in Kabul on August 19, leaving eight people dead and injuring 10 others.

Afghan parliament rejects new vote decision

Afghanistan's parliament on Wednesday rejected a decision by the war-torn country's vote authorities to replace nine MPs as part of efforts to settle a long-running dispute over last year's elections.
After almost a year of street protests and controversy over last September's fraud-tainted parliamentary polls, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) this week ordered that nine MPs be replaced.
However, the lower house of parliament has now voted to oppose these changes, a spokesman for the most powerful bloc in parliament said.
"In today's session, we unanimously rejected the new IEC decision to replace nine MPs. The parliament won't allow even a single change in the composition of the parliament," said Assadullah Saadati, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Law Coalition said.
The Law Coalition strongly opposes any alteration to the make-up of the parliament and has been behind many of the protests.
The IEC was assigned by President Hamid Karzai to make the final ruling in the nearly year-long row over election disputes.
But the issue is highly controversial in Afghanistan and has prompted a string of angry protests on the streets of Kabul by supporters of rival politicians in recent months.
On Tuesday, up to 700 Afghans marched through Kabul to protest against the decision, chanting anti-UN slogans and accusing the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) of interfering in the process.
In June, a special election tribunal backed by Karzai ruled that 62 lawmakers, a quarter of the lower house of parliament, should be expelled. However, the IEC's final ruling fell well short of that figure.
Sources close to the issue told AFP that Karzai was on Wednesday trying to settle the dispute by meeting key members of the parliament and influential clerics in his palace.
"Everybody is trying to settle this down," an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Billions spent on Afghan police but brutality,corruption prevail

An Afghan policeman shot dead taxi driver Mohammad Jawid Amiri six month ago, for no apparent reason. According to a Kabul police official, the shooting was an accident, and the offending policeman is now behind bars.

That's news to the family of 27-year-old Amiri.

They say the only contact with the policeman they had since the shooting was when his family offered a sheep and three bags each of rice and flour as compensation, but only if the Amiris signed papers saying their son died a traffic accident, and not from gunshot wounds.

"My father tore up the papers and said he will never forget him," said Sahida, the victim's older sister. "Maybe the policeman is in prison or maybe he has been freed. We don't even know why he shot my brother."

Amiri's death is part of a expanding dossier of unresolved police violence and corruption cases that have alienated Afghans, and which calls into question the billions of dollars spent to build up civic institutions in the war-torn nation.

About $29 billion has been spent on the Afghan police since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001, with more to come as the U.S. and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force steps up training ahead of plans to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014 and hand over security to Afghans.

The Afghan police force now stands at around 142,000, although desertion rates are high. But ordinary Afghans are intimidated by the force, which has high levels of drug abuse and desertion, especially when officers are posted to areas away from their home villages or find themselves unexpectedly on the frontline of the battle against Taliban insurgents.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), the police and Afghan troops trained to date "have thus far proved unable to enforce the law, counter the insurgency or even secure the seven regions" recently handed over to them.

Police earn 10,000-13,500 Afghanis ($212-287) a month.

That's better than most in Afghanistan which has an annual per capita income of about $600 and where the 30 million people have an average life expectancy of 44 years.


Afghans do not hold the police in high regard.

Three in five see the police as corrupt, more than a quarter have personally seen a policeman use narcotics, and more than half think filing a complaint about police misdeeds would have no effect on the situation or make it worse, according to a U.N. survey from late last year.

Resentment also runs high against police seeking bribes to pad their salary.

Ahmad Zeya Durani, 26, and his three younger brothers sell video games, mobile phone accessories, CDs and DVDs on the sidewalk at Nader Pashton market in Kabul, barely making a living. They pay police 30 Afghanis a day for the privilege.

"If you have a good income you have to pay up to 80 or 100 Afghanis each day," Durani said. "There were hundreds of peddlers in this street who all pay the police."

And it's not just corruption.

Nearly 200 policemen were accused of murder and just over 4,600 were involved of crimes in 3,026 separate cases sent to the attorney general in Kabul in year that began March 2010, said Lieutenant General Mohammad Rahim Hanifi, head of the top prosecutor's Statistics and Analysis department.

Police are also suspected of carrying out gang rapes, but arresting the offenders falls to their colleagues, who often just ignore the cases, or intimidate those seeking justice, Hanifi said.

"We have some suspects who don't come to us for investigation and we don't have the power to bring them here. It is the police who must arrest them and bring them to us," he said.


Illiteracy, low pay, relatively short training periods for new recruits, and perhaps most crucially, the potential ability to escape the law are among the main reasons experts give for police crime.

"Six weeks of training is not enough for a policeman to know his duty and how to behave with people," said former interior minister, Taj Mohammad Wardak.

But he argues that, while police crime figures are worrying, they represent only a tiny portion of a large and growing force.

Many Afghanis are not convinced.

"I usually tell my friends and family not to deal with police and I had told Jawid too, because they never feel responsible for the public," said Mohammad Sharif Amiri, an older brother of dead taxi driver Jawid.

Saudi woman campaigner arrested for driving

A Saudi mother was arrested in the western city of Jeddah on Wednesday for defying a ban on women drivers, her daughter told AFP. Najla Hariri was arrested while driving to the office of her daughter, Dalia. “My mother was taken to the police station,” the daughter said. Since mid-May, Hariri who campaigns for women’s rights, has driven around Jeddah several times without being arrested.
She is among a group of activists who launched an Internet campaign on June 17 urging women to defy the ban on driving in the ultra-conservative kingdom. Since then, women regularly get behind the wheels of their cars, according to the activists. The icon of the campaign, Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was arrested on May 22 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern city of Khobar. Five Saudi women were arrested at the wheels of their cars in late June in Jeddah. Women in the kingdom who have the means hire drivers while others must depend on the goodwill of male relatives.

US East Coast quake cracks Washington Monument stone

The earthquake that shook much of the US East Coast cracked one of the stones at the top of the Washington Monument, a National Park Service spokesman said on Wednesday.

US, NATO were crucial, unseen hands in Libya fight

As the battle in Libya appeared at stalemate, it was an open secret that foreign military advisers were working covertly inside the country providing guidance to rebels and giving tactical intelligence to NATO aircraft bombing government forces.

Diplomats say members of the alliance and partners in the Middle East were engaged in an undercover campaign on the ground in Libya. The operation was kept separate from the NATO command structure to avoid compromising its mandate from the United Nations — to protect civilians.

These largely unseen supporters helped to transform the ragtag rebel army into the force that stormed Tripoli.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe acknowledged the presence of the advisers, telling Europe-1 radio that France had contributed "a few instructors" to train rebel fighters.

With pockets of resistance remaining, NATO says the alliance's mission will continue despite the rapid rebel advance into Tripoli. Though the bloc has consistently denied that it had any troops in Libya, a spokesman did imply the presence of foreign forces, saying earlier this month that alliance planners "follow the situation through allied information sources that are in the area."

Analysts have noted that as time went on, the airstrikes became more and more precise and there was less and less collateral damage, indicating the presence of air controllers on the battlefields.

Targeted bombings launched methodical strikes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's crucial communications facilities and weapons caches. An increasing number of American hunter-killer drones provided round-the-clock surveillance as the rebels advanced.

Diplomats acknowledge that covert teams from France, Britain and some East European states provided critical assistance.

The assistance included logisticians, security advisers and forward air controllers for the rebel army, as well as intelligence operatives, damage assessment analysts and other experts, according to a diplomat based at NATO's headquarters in Brussels. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have been gathering information throughout the conflict from contacts they had developed when they were working with Gadhafi's government on counterterrorism against al-Qaida-related Islamic militant groups operating in Libya.

Another indication of foreign involvement was the rapid improvement in the rebel army's operations, especially better combat coordination not seen at the outset of the conflict.

"This is normally very difficult to achieve for untrained troops," said Barak Seener, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank. "But they adapted quickly, which is indicative that special forces were training them. That goes without saying."

Foreign military advisers on the ground provided key real-time intelligence to the rebels, enabling them to maximize their limited firepower against the enemy. One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the Qatari military led the way, augmented later by French, Italian and British military advisers. This effort had a multiple purpose, not only assisting the rebels but monitoring their ranks and watching for any al-Qaida elements trying to infiltrate or influence the rebellion.

Bolstering the intelligence on the ground was an escalating surveillance and targeting campaign in the skies above. Armed U.S. Predator drones helped to clear a path for the rebels to advance.

The addition of U.S. drone aircraft into the Libyan theater was important to the rebels, in giving them access to constant surveillance of the terrain, said Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros, the French Air Force chief of staff.

"The better the intel is, the more valuable it is," Palomeros told The Associated Press. "It's part of an ensemble: Time was also needed for the opposition forces to get organized."

In recent weeks, as the U.S. added more drones to the fight, they were able to do precision strikes closer to the cities, shadowing the rebels as they advanced through Zawiya and roared into Tripoli.

Over that time, Britain's National Security Council noted that cooperation had grown between NATO and the rebel groups, particularly in the coordination of airstrikes, according to one official familiar with the outcome of the meetings. After Britain and other nations send soldiers to Libya to provide training, it became apparent that rebel forces had improved their capabilities.

Combined with increasingly precise air strikes by allied forces, the rebels gradually wore down Gadhafi's forces, ruptured supply lines, and allowed more money and resources to flow to the opposition.

The allied bombings, coupled with the no-fly zone, the arms embargo and the Navy ships patrolling along the coast, all gave the rebels breathing room as they gathered arms and ammunition. Slowly, they were able to transform into a moderately effective fighting force.


Balochistan’s Forgotten journalist ''Munir Shakir''

The Baloch Hal Network
Editorial: Balochistan’s Forgotten Saleem Shahzad (s)

Saleem Shahzad, the Asia Times journalist, who was allegedly killed by the Inter-Services Intelligence, today epitomizes journalistic courage. His name is also intertwined with reporters’ extraordinary reactions in Pakistan to the murder of a fellow colleague by the country’s invisible soldiers.

When the investigative reporters’ dead body was recovered two days after his mysterious disappearance from Islamabad in May this year, it triggered massive reactions from all over the country. Private news channels, media watch dogs and even the international governments took up the issue and strongly demanded investigations into the murder.

There are no more such angry reactions throughout Pakistan over the killing of Baloch journalist, Munir Shakir, who was gunned down on Sunday in Khuzdar district. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), he is the seventh journalist from Balochistan to be killed on the line of duty since 2010 although the IFJ statistics are less accurate than the actual number of reporters who have been targeted in the conflict-stricken province.

Once again, fingers are being pointed toward the government-backed underground groups for this gruesome assassination of a committed rural journalist.

Mr. Shakir’s murder has not been widely covered in the mainstream national media nor has it been mourned by the country’s elite-dominated urban civil society. No major newspaper has written an editorial to pay tributes to a gallant reporter who risked his life on the line of duty at a time when three of his colleagues had been murdered in recent times. Shakir was a brave reporter who endangered his life in spite of repeated threats. He knew his fate could be similar to two of the former presidents of the Khuzdar Press Club (Mohammad Khan Sasoli and Faiz Mohammad Sasoli). Both the former presidents of the local press club, of which Mr. Shakir was a senior member, had been brutally killed for bringing out the truth to their readers. Up till now, their murderers are at large.

The disappointing response of the Pakistani news channels to a Baloch journalist’s killing simply reiterates the disconcerting fact that the so-called champions of press freedom and human rights based in principal cities have double standards when it comes to speaking up for the rights of rural and urban journalists. Similar to Saleem Shahzad, Mr. Shakir deserved equal solidarity and condemnation from the journalists community. Such double standards will only embolden the enemies of press freedom and encourage them to target more journalists working in remote parts of the country because the urban journalists refuse to stand by the more vulnerable rural reporters.

The fresh killing is a disturbing reminder to us how reporters and journalists have become soft targets of the government-backed underground groups and the security forces. This is a clear message to all correspondents who dig out the truth from remote areas of the province that they will eventually have to sacrifice their lives if they persistently pursue their investigations into certain controversial stories.

It is an unrealistic and unprofessional demand by some of the journalists that the government should provide them protection. This is not a possible option. However, what the government can and must do is to bring the murderers to justices. In response to a protest organized by the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) outside the provincial assembly on Tuesday, the Balochistan government promised to investigate Shakir’s killing. Based on the lackluster official response to similar killings of other Baloch journalists in the recent past, we do not see light at the end of the tunnel.

Personal and professional lives of reporters in Balochistan have become traumatic. Press is no longer free to operate. Reporters face threats from multiple directions, worst of all is, of course, the government and its intelligence agencies. While we urge all stakeholders of the conflict to respect journalists’ right to report independently, they should also remember that attacking reporters will not win them respect and support in the society.

With these killings and related cases of harassment and manhandling, the chances of the Balochistan conflict being reported fairly and objectively further fade away. At a time when Pakistan’s deplorable state of human rights in Balochistan has received international criticism from human rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, attacks on journalists will come as a setback to those who are trying to identify brazen cases of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings.

Raja Riaz getting “death threats” from Shahbaz Sharif

Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz on Wednesday claimed that he was getting “death threats” from Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, adding that if anything happened to him the responsibility should fall on the younger Sharif, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives, Mr Riaz said that Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif was harming democracy by making calls for early elections.

He said that finally a democratically elected government was completing its term but the “Sharif brothers want it to fall as soon as possible”.

He said Shahbaz Sharif’s delegation to Karachi was “only a farce”, especially when the law and order situation in Punjab was “in bad shape”.

Speaking of Sindh, Mr Riaz said that although calling the army to Karachi was an option, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) “rejects the idea” for the time being.

Russia urges talks to end Libya standoff

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

said there were still two powers in Libya despite the success of rebels against the forces of Moamer Kadhafi, and called for talks to resolve the situation.

"Despite the successes of the rebels, Kadhafi and his supporters still have a certain influence and military potential. We want them to sit down at the negotiating table and reach agreements on future peace," he said. "In essence, there are two powers in the country.

China asks UN to lead post-war efforts in Libya

China has asked the United Nations to lead post-war reconstruction in Libya, urging a smooth political transition in the North African state after rebels overran Moamer Kadhafi's Tripoli compound.

Beijing also said it was willing to help with efforts to return stability to Libya as the rebels battled the last remnants of Kadhafi's forces. China, which long supported the Kadhafi regime, has invested billions of dollars in rail, oil and telecoms in Libya, and has commercial and strategic reasons for not wanting Western countries to exert too much influence there.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to take a lead in the reconstruction of Libya, where NATO has waged an aerial bombing campaign to defend civilians against attacks by Kadhafi's loyalists.

"The UN should play a leading role in post-war arrangements in Libya," Yang told Ban in a telephone conversation on Tuesday, according to a foreign ministry statement. "China... is willing to work with the UN to promote stability in Libya," added Yang, who also called on the United Nations to work with other regional organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League.

Britain, France and the United States have thrown diplomatic and financial support behind the Libyan opposition and Yang's comments appeared to indicate a reluctance to allow them to take control of the reconstruction efforts.

Karachi Students march against target killing

The students of NED University and University of Karachi (KU) marched against the deteriorating law and order situation and target killings in the metropolis, Geo News reported.

They were holding placards inscribed with the demands to restore peace in the city. The students marched from main KU gate to NED University.

The participants of the protest rally noted that we are only Pakistani and would fight against the terrorism. Terror incidents are an attempt to stoke infighting, they said.

Gaddafi to be tried in Libya - Elections in eight months, rebels' head says

Libya will hold elections in eight months and Muammar Gaddafi will be tried in the country, opposition leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in comments published today.
"In eight months we will hold legislative and presidential elections. We want a democratic government and a just constitution," promised Abdel Jalil, chairman of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC)
"Above all we do not wish to continue to be isolated in the world as we have been up to now," he added in comments published in the Italian La Repubblica daily.
The whereabouts of Libyan strongman Colonel Gaddafi remained unknown Wednesday as the rebels overran his Tripoli compound.
The rebel leader said that the mass of opinion within the NTC was that Gaddafi and his cohorts should eventually be judged "in a fair trial, but it must take place in Libya."
For that to happen "we need to take them alive and treat them differently from the way the colonel treated his adversaries. He will stay in the memory only for the crimes, the arrests and the political assassinations he carried out," he added.

Gaddafi flees Tripoli HQ ransacked by rebels

A beleaguered Muammar Gaddafi vowed on Wednesday to fight on to death or victory after rebels forced him to abandon his Tripoli stronghold in what appeared to be a decisive blow against the Libyan leader's 42-year rule.

Gleeful rebels ransacked Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya bastion, seizing weapons and smashing symbols of a government whose demise will transform Libya and send a warning to other Arab autocrats facing popular uprisings.

Gaddafi said his withdrawal from his headquarters in the heart of the capital was a tactical move after it had been hit by 64 NATO air strikes and he vowed "martyrdom" or victory in his fight against the alliance.

Urging Libyans to cleanse the streets of traitors, he said he had secretly toured Tripoli.

"I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and ... I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger," Gaddafi said.

He was speaking to pro-Gaddafi media outlets and his whereabouts after leaving the compound remain a mystery, although he appeared to have been in Tripoli, at least until recently.

As night fell on Tuesday after a day in which rebels overran Tripoli, meeting little resistance with few casualties, heavy fighting was reported in a southern desert city, Sabha, that rebels forecast would be Gaddafi loyalists' last redoubt.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi were shelling the towns of Zuara and Ajelat, west of Tripoli, Al-Arabiya television reported.


In Tripoli itself, Reuters correspondents said there still appeared to be some hostile fire around the city center as darkness descended and looting broke out.

Omar al-Ghirani, a spokesman for the rebels, said loyalist forces had fired seven Grad missiles at residential areas of the capital, causing people to flee their homes in panic.

He told Reuters Gaddafi forces had also fired mortar rounds in the area of the Tripoli airport.

The continued shooting suggested the six-month popular insurgency against Gaddafi, a maverick Arab nationalist who defied the West and kept an iron hand on his oil-exporting, country for four decades, had not completely triumphed yet.

A spokesman for Gaddafi said the Libyan leader was ready to resist the rebels for months, or even years.

"We will turn Libya into a volcano of lava and fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents," Moussa Ibrahim said, speaking by telephone to the pro-Gaddafi channels.

Rebel leaders would not enjoy peace if they carried out plans to move to Tripoli from their headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, he said.

But Gaddafi was already history in the eyes of the rebels and their political leaders planned high-level talks in Qatar on Wednesday with envoys of the United States, Britain, France, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the way ahead.

Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Istanbul.

"It's over! Gaddafi is finished!" yelled a fighter over a din of celebratory gunfire across the Bab al-Aziziya compound, Gaddafi's sprawling citadel of power in the Libyan capital.


Opinion was divided about Gaddafi's whereabouts. Colonel Ahmed Bani told Al-Arabiya TV that rebels believed Gaddafi was probably holed up in one of many hideouts in Tripoli. "It will take a long time to find him," he said.

Rebel National Council chief Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was until February a loyal minister of Gaddafi, cautioned: "It is too early to say that the battle of Tripoli is over. That won't happen until Gaddafi and his sons are captured."

Mahmoud Jibril, head of the rebel government, promised a transition toward a democracy for all Libyans. "The whole world is looking at Libya," he said, warning against summary justice.

"We must not sully the final page of the revolution."

Jibril said they had formed a new body including field commanders from a variety of local revolutionary groups to coordinate security. There is a long history of friction among villages and tribes, Arabs and ethnic Berbers, and between the east and west of a state formed as an Italian colony in 1934.

Western powers who backed the revolt with air power held off from pronouncing victory although they are keen for a swift return to order, given fears that ethnic and tribal divisions among the insurgents could degenerate into the kind of anarchy that would thwart hopes of Libya resuming oil exports.

But the fall of Gaddafi, with the arresting images on Arab satellite TV of rebels stomping through his inner sanctum and laying waste to the props of his long unaccountable domination, could be a shot in the arm for other revolts in the Arab world.

It could underline that entrenched authoritarian leaders are no longer invincible, particularly in Syria where popular unrest has widened despite ever fiercer military crackdowns by President Bashar al-Assad.


At the Bab al-Aziziya, long a no-go area, armed men broke up a gilded statue of Gaddafi, kicking its face. Others ripped up his portrait or climbed on a monument depicting a clenched fist, which Gaddafi erected after a U.S. air strike in 1986.

Another rebel sported a heavily braided, peaked military cap of a kind favored by the colonel, who seized power in 1969. He said he had taken the hat from Gaddafi's bedroom.

"House to house! Room to room!" chanted some men at Bab al-Aziziya, calling for a search of its bunkers and tunnels in a mocking echo of the words Gaddafi used six months ago when he vowed to crush the early stirrings of the Arab Spring revolt.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a rebel commander, said he did not know where Gaddafi or his sons were. "They ran like rats."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We're in the death throes of this regime ... But it's still a very difficult and dangerous time. It's not over yet."

On Tuesday night, youths danced in Tripoli's Green Square, another Gaddafi showpiece arena. They waved the red, green and black flag of the rebels to the sound of gunfire, though most of the city's 2 million people prudently stayed indoors.

One man greeted the fall of a third autocrat in the Arab Spring and forecast others would share their fate: "1. Tunisia 2. Egypt 3. Libya ? Syria ? Yemen," his sign read.

Rebel officials, who said they hoped to move from Benghazi in the east to the capital this week, spoke of trying Gaddafi in Libya rather than sending him to The Hague, where he and two others have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

The Russian head of the International Chess Federation, who had visited Tripoli in June, told Reuters Gaddafi called him on Tuesday to say he would stay in Tripoli and "fight to the end".

But he had few places to make a stand. His home town of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and rebel Benghazi, was expected to welcome rebel forces shortly, Abdel-Jalil said. But Jibril spoke of a need still to "liberate" southern desert areas such as Sabha and of fighting there.

Libya to honor all Gaddafi oil deals: Jehani

A Libyan rebel government would honor all the oil contracts granted during the Muammar Gaddafi era, including those of Chinese companies, Ahmed Jehani, a senior rebel representative for reconstruction told Reuters in an interview.

"The contracts in the oil fields are absolutely sacrosanct," Jehani told Reuters Insider TV on Tuesday night.

"All lawful contracts will be honored whether they are in the oil and gas complex or in the contracting... We have contracts that were negotiated ... they were auctioned openly ... There's no question of revoking any contract."

How Qaddafi’s collapse will impact Arab rebels trying to oust their leaders


The implosion of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s 41-year-old rule will put a new spring in the step of the Arab revolutions and demonstrate once again that these entrenched autocratic governments are not invincible.

From the Atlantic coast to Gulf shores, live images on Arab satellite channels of rebels pouring into Tripoli, trampling on pictures of Qaddafi and chanting “From alley to alley, door to door”, taunting the leader with his own threats to hunt down his enemies, will rattle Arab leaders facing similar revolts.

Arab capitals have been enthralled as street protests forced Tunisia’s Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country he had ruled for 23 years and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in power and now Qaddafi’s government to decompose.
Arabs who this month have seen Mr. Mubarak and his sons appear behind bars and who now see the rule of the longest-serving Arab ruler collapsing must wonder what else is possible.

From Syria to Yemen, Arab autocrats who sought to use force and repression to contain pent-up popular aspirations and fend off uprisings must have pause for thought after events in Libya.

“It is an important development because it shows there are different ways in which Arab regimes will collapse. It just shows once you get a momentum developing and the right combination -- a popular will for change and regional and international support -- no regime can withstand that,” said Beirut-based Middle East analyst Rami Khouri.

“Syria has this combination of a popular uprising with regional and international backing. These authoritarian regimes, even if they are strong, collapse in the end. We have three transitions now, Tunis, Egypt and Libya and more are to follow.”

Mr. Khouri said a revolt in Bahrain by a Shi’ite majority seeking more rights from the Sunni Al Khalifa ruling family had failed because it lacked regional and international backing.

It is true, experts say, that Col. Qaddafi’s downfall depended crucially on Western military intervention, which evidently is not going to be repeated in Syria or elsewhere -- debt-laden Western powers, still deeply involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, have no appetite for new fronts in the Muslim world.

The five-month NATO bombing campaign in Libya prevented Col. Qaddafi’s forces from recapturing the rebel city of Benghazi and quelling the revolt that erupted on Feb. 17, which would have been a discouraging reversal for restive Arabs elsewhere.
Persistence pays
“It shows that if the protesters, opposition, freedom fighters or rebels in Yemen or in Syria persist they may be able to topple the regime,” said Middle East analyst Geoff D. Porter.

“People’s views of the Arab spring were formed by Tunisia and Egypt where protests lasted up to a month. They thought Libya will be impossible because it didn’t fit the Tunisia and Egypt model,” he said. “Libya’s protests will encourage and embolden protesters in Syria and Yemen although they miss a big component which is the support of NATO.”

Scenes of popular rejoicing in Tripoli after Col. Qaddafi’s forces apparently melted away suggest many in the capital had loathed their leader, but had not previously dared defy him for fear of retribution.

“This is another day, a new page in Libya’s history. We are witnessing a new dawn and a new history of freedom,” said Mohammed Derah, a Libyan activist in Tripoli.

Anti-Qaddafi demonstrations in Tripoli early on in the revolt were forcibly suppressed.

“Libya showed that Col. Qaddafi didn’t have the support he claimed he had. One may be able to make the comparison to Syria and Yemen where joining a revolution is a big risk. (People) may not support the regime but they wouldn’t risk their lives until rebels show up,” Mr. Porter said in reference to the paucity of demonstrations in Syrian cities such as Damascus and Aleppo.

Experts said economic and oil sanctions imposed on Col. Qaddafi had played a big role in bringing his forces to their knees and similar actions against Syria could have a similar impact.

Mr. Assad, who faces growing international calls to step down over his crackdown on more than five months of protests which U.N. officials say have cost around 2,000 civilian lives, warned the West on Sunday that Syria would not tolerate any outside interference, saying unrest had become more militant.

“As for the threat of a military action ... any action against Syria will have greater consequences (on those who carry it out), greater than they can tolerate,” he said.

No country has proposed any military intervention in Syria, which borders Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan -- and has powerful allies in Shi’ite Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“Mr. Assad is probably afraid he will be in the same camp but he thinks he has different international relations than Col. Qaddafi, who had no friends. Mr. Assad has the support of Tehran and Hezbollah and that changes the international community’s calculus,” Mr. Porter said.

For Mr. Khouri, the Libyan rebel success will shake the confidence of rulers such as Assad, who apparently believe their military-backed governments are immune to popular discontent.

“Mr. Assad lives in a world of his own. He doesn’t live in a real world. He is oblivious to the new reality. These dictatorships feel invincible,” Mr. Khouri said

“What we are seeing is that they are not invincible. They are very vulnerable. Most of these regimes have been in power for decades and decades and have reached the end of the line.”

Virginia earthquake: videos capture moment tremors hit US

The earthquake, which struck the US and Canadian east coast along a corridor stretching from Toronto to central Virginia, shook buildings and forced the evacuation of the Pentagon.
WIth the quake hitting the area at around 2pm local time, numerous events were interrupted by the violent tremors.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the prosecutor in the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was preparing to speak to reporters when the earthquake rattled the building.
Reggae musician Shaggy was also caught mid-interview, understandably a little shaken as New York City was jolted by a minor earthquake.
"Is it me or is this place shaking right now, why is it shaking? Dude, it's shaking so much that this thing is actually moving," the singer said looking concerned.

Pakistan, China holding talks in Beijing

During talks with Pakistan, China on Wednesday signalled its intention to playing a significant role for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The ongoing talks in Beijing were focusing on several aspects, including economic and defence, of the ties between the two countries.

Pakistan’s delegation was being headed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the Chinese side was being led by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Ms Khar said Pakistan wanted to strengthen its ties with China through trade and investment.

Speaking to media representatives earlier, Ms Khar said China was one of the countries with which Pakistan had signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and both sides could get benefits from the FTA.

She pointed out that the existing bond of friendship between Pakistan and China was multi-faceted and covered all areas including defence, economic and trade ties.

“We have strategic and robust relations with China,” she said, adding that one cannot bracket these ties with other countries.

Provision of education, justice can eliminiate terrorism: Hoti
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti has stated that provision of speedy justice and promotion of education is essential for elimination of darkness of terrorism, brutality and ignorance.

He said the darkness of terrorism can only be illuminated with light of knowledge, he said while addressing launching ceremony of “Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa Programme” at CM House.

Under the scheme, top ten position holders of government schools in SSC and Intermediate (Science and Art) exams under entire educational boards of the province will be awarded Rs. 10, 000 and Rs. 15000 monthly scholarships respectively.

Senior Provincial Ministers Rahim Dad Khan and Bashir Ahmad Bilour, provincial ministers Syed Zahir Ali Shah, Mian Iftekhar Hussain, Nimroz Khan, Haji Hidayat Ullah, Syed Qalb Hasan and Wajid Ali Khan, higher authorities from education and administration, intelligent students of the province and their parents, teachers, General secretary ANP Taj ud Din Khan, Secretary Information Arbab Muhammad Tahir and district office bearers were also present on the occasion. The chief minister said the students from government institutes have achieved remarkable success despite untoward situation, lack of facilities and financial problems confronting their parents, added, we are proud of their success.

He said that “Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa Program” will help such students to continue their journey of success. The chief minister paid tributes to the students particularly their parents who are educating their children despite finding it hard to earn their livelihood, added, this remarkable achievement will indeed be a sources of honor for their parents. The chief minister also lauded the role of teachers in this connection and said that it will not be realized without their efforts and guidance.

“Under the scheme a total of 356 intelligent students across the province will be awarded scholarships this year and the provision of scholarship cheques will take place in gatherings at board level and which will be chaired by elected representatives and provincial ministers,” he informed.

The chief minister said that the present government will provide technical training on government scholarship to 1500 students in prominent technical institutes of the country so that they will able to achieve better employment. An another scheme will also be launched under which already trained people will be provided loan worth Rs. 3 lakh on soft terms, he added. It will cement economy of the province and will enable skilled professionals to earn their livelihood on their own. Regarding creation of job opportunities, the chief minister said Bacha Khan Khpal Rozgar scheme is successfully moving ahead in this connection and Rs. 2 billion has been allocated for this program this year.

He said “we need people ownership and support from all political forces to make these programs successful and there is need to take decision beyond politics.

Hoti said that currently our survival is the major problem, conspiracies are woven around Pakistan and people are brutally killed, added, promotion of education and provision of job opportunities is the right strategy to tackle such situation. He appealed the media to monitor these special initiatives and point any deficiency in this connection; added, highlighting plus points and shortcomings in people welfare projects is the responsibility of media. He said: “We consider their positive criticism as source of guidance for us”.

The chief minister lauded efforts of team of Elementary and Secondary Education department for realizing this dream in a very short span of time and thanked the provincial cabinet for its assistance in issuance of this scheme. Earlier, Secretary Elementary and secondary Education Mushtaq Jadoon threw detailed light on objectives, process and other matters of the scheme. The chief minister talked intimately to the students and their parents on the occasion.

Earlier the chief minister distributed cheques of scholarships worth Rs. 10,000 p/m to SCC top ten position holders from entire educational boards of the province and Rs. 15,000 p/m to F.A/F.Sc top ten position holders from entire educational boards of the province.

Talking to media person, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti has clarified that holding jirga of all political forces is aimed to uncap Rs. 6 billion in connection with net hydel profit since 1991 and to settle it according to current rates.

He said there is a clear cut difference in current rate of electricity and that of 1991, added, increase in rate with passage of time is essential. Regarding installment, the chief minister said that a disagreement on its method exists between the provincial and federal governments and the federal government has not denied its payment. He said that Rs. 4 billion have been received and we are aiming to achieve Rs. 25 billion arrears all at once.

Perils of reporting in Balochistan

On Sunday, August 14 as the nation celebrated the 64th Independence Day, yet another Pakistani journalist lost his life while performing his duties.

Munir Shakir, 44, a correspondent of the Online News Network and a reporter for Balochi language television channel Sabzbath Balochistan, was covering the ‘black day’ being observed in the province on the call of Baloch National Front (BNF). He visited important constituencies in Khuzdar, Balochistan’s second largest city, which has become the hub of Baloch resistance movement, to measure the efficacy of the strike and interview residents of the area to complete his daily assignments.

On this critically tense day, Shakir, a senior member of the Khuzdar Press Club, was returning home after meeting fellow journalists at the local press club when unknown attackers riding a motorbike shot him three times in the neck at Chandani intersection.

Shakir is the fourth journalist from Khuzdar district to be killed on the line of duty in the recent times following the escalation of the Baloch insurgency. Formerly, two presidents of the same press club, Mohammad Khan Sasoli and Faiz Mohammad Sasoli and a senior member, Haji Wasi Ahmed, were gunned down.

“We are alarmed to learn of the killing of another journalist in Pakistan’s Balochistan province,” reacted the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), an organisation that represents 600,000 journalists worldwide. While quoting the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the IFJ said Shakir was the sixth journalist killed in Pakistan in 2011 and the seventh reporter from the volatile Balochistan province to be shot dead since 2010. This, the IFJ added, “exposed the failure of the government to protect media personnel.”

The latest killing of a reporter comes only weeks after the disclosure of a respected Baloch newspaper editor that an underground organisation identifying itself as the Muttahida Mahaz-e-Nifaz-e-Iman [United Front for Enforcement of Faith] had threatened to kill him and his son. The threat sounded so potential that the Balochistan Editors’ Council immediately convened an emergency meeting in Quetta and deliberated over the mounting pressure editors and reporters face from different underground groups and government agencies.

An office-bearer of the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) told that they had already informed the government of Balochistan about the upsurge in threats facing reporters in Balochistan. They have also demanded security against possible assaults.

The government has not punished a single murderer who was responsible for the killing of fellow journalists, said the BUJ official while requesting anonymity. The situation for reporters in interior Balochistan is even worse than Quetta where reporters have to face all forms of threats and assaults from different groups, he lamented.

He also informed that many correspondents had either quit the profession or shifted outside Balochistan for safety reasons. All we can do is to urge the correspondents to report ‘carefully’ and avoid writing and speaking on ‘sensitive topics’ which may jeopardise their lives, he explained.

According to Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, her organisation “believes that the sharp rise in killings and other forms of violence against journalists is linked directly to the fact that in almost all cases in the last few years, where journalists have been killed or attacked on account of their work, the culprits remain unidentified and unpunished.”

“The lack of investigations and accountability into the killing of reporters suggests an endorsement of violence towards media personnel at the official and societal level,” said the president of a local press club in Balochistan, “We have protested in our district headquarters as well as in Quetta to demand justice for our colleagues but to no avail.”

Journalism in interior Balochistan is a murky world where press releases and catchy headlines may cost reporters their lives. Different political parties, student groups, armed outfits, underground gangs, government agencies, tribal chiefs, drug dealers, land mafia and rich smugglers dictate reporters to get their press releases and photographs published in newspapers. The next day, these influential stakeholders count centimeters, columns and page numbers to analyse the coverage of their press releases.

For instance, if a political party’s press release is displayed on the front page of a newspaper, the opposite party takes this as an insult if the same newspaper publishes the rival party’s press release on its back page. If the statement of a party or a tribal notable is not published then the district correspondent is very likely to receive a phone call, ironically, to provide accountability for his news editor who did not publish the story.

Most political activists and leaders do not know how news organisations operate and how roles and responsibilities of stringers, copy editors, news editors and publishers are differently defined. Reporters working at district level get abused, threatened, beaten up and sometimes killed only for a headline they had never decided for the newspaper.

Some years back, for instance, the Quetta-based reporter of a weekly Urdu magazine was shot dead reportedly because his copy editor, sitting in the Karachi head office, chose a condescending headline for what the affected group viewed as a “tragic story”.

The district reporter is not a paid staff member of a newspaper or a news channel. He is often a student or a semi-educated government or private employee who adopts journalism as a passion. For him, journalism is a key to access top government officials and getting people’s minor works done because of the personal contacts he makes with the local police and the administration due to the press card he holds. Many of these reporters demonstrate extraordinary commitment to their profession. They jeopardise their own lives by exposing the human rights violations committed by the tribal chiefs or the corruption of influential ministers and bureaucrats. In Pakistan’s media history, these rural reporters broke some extraordinary stories such as the Mukhtaran Mai and Dr. Shahzia Khalid rape cases.

On its part, the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) refuses to grant membership to these reporters. The organisation does not recognise the services of rural reporters because, according to its benchmark, a journalist is he/she whose sole source of income is journalism. No journalist union in the country dissuades these reporters from working without pay or coaxes the owners of newspapers and channels to provide these gallant reporters regular employment. Many ambitious reporters continue to suffer as they fail to choose between their passion and livelihood.

Brahumdagh Bugti: Pakistan’s Bitter, Little-Known Ethnic Rebellion

A slim figure in a dark suit, Brahumdagh Bugti, 30, could pass for a banker in the streets of this sedate Swiss city. But in truth he is a resistance leader in exile, a player in an increasingly ugly independence war within Pakistan.

He has been on the run since 2006, when he narrowly escaped a Pakistani Army operation that killed his grandfather and dozens of his tribesmen in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. And since then, the government’s attempt to stamp out an uprising by the Baluch ethnic minority has only intensified, according to human rights organizations and Pakistani politicians.

The Baluch insurgency, which has gone on intermittently for decades, is often called Pakistan’s Dirty War, because of the rising numbers of people who have disappeared or have been killed on both sides. But it has received little attention internationally, in part because most eyes are turned toward the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas.

Mr. Bugti insists that he is a political leader only, and that he is not taking a role in the armed uprising against the government. He was caught up in a deadly struggle between his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a former minister and a leader of the Bugti tribe, and Pakistan’s military leader at the time, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, over control of Baluchistan’s rich natural resources and the establishment of military bases in the province.

Baluch nationalists have never accepted being part of Pakistan and have fought in five uprisings since the country’s formation in 1948. Their demands range from greater control over Baluchistan’s gas and natural resources, fairer distribution of wealth (Baluchistan suffers from the lowest health, education and living standards in the country), to outright independence.

When the Pakistani Army shelled their ancestral home in Dera Bugti in December 2005, Mr. Bugti took to the hills with his grandfather, who was 80 and partly disabled, and they camped for months in mountain caves. Then, in August 2006, the military caught up with them. “I escaped, but he could not,” Mr. Bugti said.

From a hide-out two miles away, he watched the military assault, a furious three-day bombardment by attack jets, helicopter gunships and airborne troops. On the evening of the third day, the government triumphantly announced that Nawab Bugti had been killed. Thirty-two tribesmen died with him, Mr. Bugti said. The day after learning of his grandfather’s death, Mr. Bugti gathered his closest tribal leaders, and they urged him to leave and save himself, he said.

Pakistan and neighboring Iran were hostile to the Baluch, and the only place to go was Afghanistan, though it was consumed by the war with the Taliban. It took 19 days, on foot, to trek from a mountain base near Sibi to the Afghan border. But he had an armed tribal force and scouts with him and made the escape without incident, crossing into Afghanistan along a mountain trail, he said.

Although he had few contacts there, tribal links and traditions of hospitality assured him a welcome. He sent for his wife, his two children — a third was born in Afghanistan — and his mother, and after an elaborate dance to confuse government watchers, they crossed the border to join him days later.

Yet Afghanistan was not a safe haven. The family moved about 18 times over the next 18 months, and despite never going outside, he said, they became the target of repeated suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban and Qaeda militants, who they believe were sent by the Pakistani military. At least one bomb attack, in the upscale residential Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, was specifically aimed at Mr. Bugti, a Western diplomat and an Afghan intelligence official said.

The Pakistani government has branded Mr. Bugti a terrorist, the leader of the militant Baluch Republican Army, and has made no secret of its desire to kill or capture him. It has repeatedly demanded that Afghanistan hand him over and has accused India of supporting Baluch rebels through its consulates in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s remonstrations over Mr. Bugti became so insistent that the United States and other NATO members urged Afghanistan to move Mr. Bugti elsewhere, Western diplomats and Afghan officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the politics involved. In October 2010, he and his family arrived in Switzerland and sought political asylum.

Though Mr. Bugti says he supports only peaceful political activism rather than armed resistance, he does share the rebels’ demand for independence for the Baluch. “I support the political struggle and the idea for liberation because the Baluch people demand it,” he said.

He formed a political party shortly after his grandfather’s death, distancing himself from the established parties. The manner of his grandfather’s death, his call for political opposition to the government and his youth have won him broad support beyond his own Bugti tribe, among the educated Baluch middle class and student movements and appointed representatives in every district.

“We got a very good response from all the Baluch,” he said.

It proved to him that people in Baluchistan still hoped and believed in political change, he said. Yet government retribution was swift. Eight members of his political party in Baluchistan have been killed, five members of its central committee are missing since its formation in 2007 and the top leaders have been forced into exile. Even the party’s 76-year-old secretary general, Bashir Azeem, was detained for two months in 2009 and tortured — including being beaten and hung upside down, in a case documented by Human Rights Watch.

It is part of an increasingly deadly government crackdown on political and student nationalist leaders in the province over the last 18 months, politicians and human rights officials say. “They are trying to kill the activists, anyone who is speaking out,” Mr. Bugti said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented a rising number of abuses by the Pakistani security forces in Baluchistan. Amnesty International describes the use of “kill and dump” tactics, under which activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers, even teenagers, have been detained and their bullet-ridden bodies dumped on roadsides at a rate of about 20 a month in recent months.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of people have disappeared since 2005 in Baluchistan, and it has documented 45 cases of enforced disappearances and torture by Pakistani security forces in the province in 2009 and 2010. Human Rights Watch has also reported a growing trend of retaliation by armed rebels on non-Baluch settlers, including the targeted killings of 22 teachers.

Despite the end of General Musharraf’s rule and Pakistan’s return to a democratic government in 2008, military repression of the Baluch has only increased, Mr. Bugti and others say. Members of the civilian government say they have no power over the military, and the army is obsessed with crushing an uprising that it sees as an effort by India to undermine Pakistani sovereignty.

Mr. Bugti has called on the United States to end aid to the Pakistani Army, which, he said, was diverting resources from intended counterterrorism goals and using them to suppress the Baluch. “If the U.S. stopped the military and financial assistance, they could not continue their operations for long,” he said.

The increased violence has pushed the Baluch far beyond their original demands for greater autonomy and recognition of their rights and toward an armed independence movement. “Ninety-nine percent of the Baluch now want liberation,” Mr. Bugti said.

“The people are more angry and they will go to the side of those using violence, because if you close all the peaceful ways of struggle, and you kidnap the peaceful, political activists, and torture them to death and throw their bodies on roadsides, then definitely they will go and join the armed resistance groups,” he said.

He sees little hope of change from within Pakistan and seeks intervention by the United Nations and Western nations. “We have to struggle hard, maybe for 1 year, 2 years, 20 years,” he said. “We have to hope.”

Strongest quake since '44 jars East Coast

Tens of millions of people from Georgia to Canada were jolted Tuesday by the strongest earthquake to strike the East Coast since World War II. Three weeks before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, office workers poured out of New York skyscrapers and the Pentagon, relieved it was nothing more sinister than an act of nature.There were no known deaths or serious injuries, but cracks appeared in the National Cathedral and three capstones broke off its tower. Windows shattered and grocery stores were wrecked in Virginia, where the quake was centered. The White House and Capitol were partly evacuated.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8. By West Coast standards, that is mild. But the East Coast is not accustomed to earthquakes at all, and this one unsettled some of the nation's biggest population centers.
In New York and Washington, people said their thoughts were of an explosion or terrorist attack. In some cases, workers in Washington mentioned the tremors in phone calls to colleagues in New York, and seconds later, the shaking reached there, too.
"We thought it was a bomb at first because everyone has 9/11 on the brain and that it's so close to September and the 10th anniversary," said Cathy McDonald, who works in an IRS office in downtown Washington.
Hundreds of people spilled out of the federal courthouse blocks from ground zero after the quake struck just before 2 p.m. EDT. Workers in the Empire State Building rushed into the streets, some having descended dozens of flights of stairs.
"I thought we'd been hit by an airplane," said one worker, Marty Wiesner.
Adrian Ollivierre, an accountant who was in his office on the 60th floor when the shaking began, said: "I thought I was having maybe a heart attack, and I saw everybody running. I think what it is, is the paranoia that happens from 9/11, and that's why I'm still out here — because, I'm sorry, I'm not playing with my life."
The quake was felt as far north as Toronto, as far west as Indiana and Kentucky and as far south as Atlanta and Savannah, Ga. It was also felt on Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts, where President Barack Obama, who is vacationing there, was getting ready to tee off in a round of golf.
The White House said there were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities. Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Virginia were automatically taken off line by safety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant is in the same county as the quake's epicenter, about 80 miles southwest of Washington and 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va.
The Park Service closed all monuments and memorials on the National Mall, and ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Many nonessential workers in Washington were sent home for the day. The Capitol was reopened by late afternoon for people to retrieve their things.
At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built until the building itself was shaking, and people ran into the corridors of the complex. The shaking continued, to shouts of "Evacuate! Evacuate!" The main damage to the building, the largest single workspace for the federal government, came from a broken water pipe.
The National Cathedral said it had sustained "significant damage," with three capstones, each shaped like a fleur-de-lis, breaking off the main tower. Cracks appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at the cathedral's east end, the oldest part of the building.
"Everyone here is safe," the cathedral said on its official Twitter feed. "Please pray for the Cathedral as there has been some damage."
Around Mineral, Va., a small town close to the epicenter, people milled around in their lawns, on sidewalks and parking lots, still rattled and leery of re-entering buildings. All over town, masonry was crumpled, and there were stores with shelf contents strewn on the floor. Several display windows at businesses in the tiny heart of downtown were broken and lay in jagged shards.
Carmen Bonano, who has a 1-year-old granddaughter, sat on the porch of her family's white-frame house, its twin brick chimneys destroyed. Her voice still quavered with fear.
"The fridge came down off the wall and things started falling. I just pushed the refrigerator out of the way, grabbed the baby and ran," she said.
By the standards of the West Coast, where earthquakes are much more common, the Virginia quake was not strong. Since 1900, there have been 50 quakes of magnitude 5.8 or greater in California alone. Quakes in the East tend to be felt across a much broader area.
"The waves are able to reverberate and travel pretty happily out for miles," said USGS seismologist Susan Hough.
The Geological Survey put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage.
The agency said the quake was 3.7 miles beneath the surface, but scientists said they may never be able to map the exact fault. Aftershocks may help to outline it, said Rowena Lohman, a seismologist at Cornell University. There have been a few aftershocks. Two were magnitudes 2.2 and 2.8 but a later one measured 4.8.
The last quake of equal power to strike the East Coast was in New York in 1944. The largest East Coast quake on record was a 7.3 that hit South Carolina in 1886. In 1897, a magnitude-5.9 quake was recorded at Giles County, Va., the largest on record in that state.
A 5.8-magnitude quake releases as much energy as almost eight kilotons of TNT, about half the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The earthquake that devastated Japan earlier this year released more than 60,000 times as much energy as Tuesday's.
The Virginia quake came a day after an earthquake in Colorado toppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes in the southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. No injuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.
For the most part, the East Coast quake was a curiosity, at least after the initial fear faded away. It disrupted what was, for millions of people, an ordinary workday.
In New York, the police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was in a meeting with top deputies planning security for the upcoming anniversary when the shaking started. The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, was starting a news conference about the dismissal of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. Reporters and aides began rushing out the door until it became clear it was subsiding.
On Wall Street, the floor of the New York Stock Exchange did not shake, officials said, but the Dow Jones industrial average sank 60 points soon after the quake struck. The Dow began rising again a half-hour later and finished the day up 322 points.
Amtrak said its trains along the Northeast Corridor between Baltimore and Washington were at reduced speeds and crews were inspecting stations and railroad infrastructure before returning to normal.
In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.
"The whole building shook," said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. "You could feel two different shakes. Everybody just kind of came out on their own."
In Ohio, office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati. The press box at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, shook, as did the stadium at the consolation game of the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
John Gurlach, air traffic controller at the Morgantown Municipal Airport in West Virginia, was in a 40-foot-tall tower when the earth trembled.
"There were two of us looking at each other saying, 'What's that?'" he said, even as a commuter plane was landing. "It was noticeably shaking. It felt like a B-52 unloading."
Immediately, the phone rang from the nearest airport in Clarksburg, and a computer began spitting out green strips of paper — alerts from other airports in New York and Washington issuing ground stops "due to earthquake."
The earthquake caused a stir online, where people posted to Facebook and Twitter within seconds and described what they had felt. The keywords in posts, or hashtags, included "DCquake," ''VAquake" and "Columbusquake," an indication of how broadly the quake was experienced.
Quake photos and videos also made the rounds. A handful were authentic. Many more were not — they were favorite earthquake scenes from Hollywood blockbusters or footage of people shaking their glasses and plates at an Olive Garden.
On the West Coast, where the last major quake to strike a metro area was a magnitude-6.7 event that ravaged greater Los Angeles in 1994, what happened back East was cause for outright mockery.
"Californians yawn, shrug and go back to their iced lattes," Marcus Beer, who reviews video games for a local news broadcaster, said in a Twitter post.