Friday, August 26, 2011

Obama Warns of ‘Historic’ Storm; Cuts Short Vacation

New York Times
VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. – President Obama will cut short his Martha’s Vineyard vacation because of Hurricane Irene and return Friday night, as he urged Americans along the Eastern Seaboard to take precautions against the potentially “historic hurricane” making its way toward the coast this weekend.

Mr. Obama, his wife and two daughters were to leave Martha’s Vineyard, just off Massachusetts, on Saturday but he decided “it would be more prudent” for him to return to the White House with his family Friday to monitor events, said his spokesman, Josh Earnest. Island authorities had begun their own preparations for the storm, including canceling some ferries to the mainland.

Immediately before directing his aides to prepare to depart, Mr. Obama appeared before cameras at his rental farm property to warn that Hurricane Irene, which on Friday was barreling toward North Carolina on a path that threatened all the way through New England, is “likely to be an extremely dangerous and costly storm.”

“All indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” he added.

“I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst. All of us have to take this storm seriously. You need to listen to your state and local officials, and if you are given an evacuation order, please follow it,” Mr. Obama said.

Underscoring the government’s own preparations, Mr. Obama said he had ordered an aircraft carrier group out to sea to avoid the storm. Before his remarks, the president for a second day had convened a conference call of senior administration officials about Irene’s progress and the status of federal relief efforts. The call included his chief of staff, William M. Daley; Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, and Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which since last weekend has been setting up outposts in coastal communities stocked with water, meals, cots, blankets and other supplies for those displaced.

Mr. Obama said he also had called mayors and governors of coastal states to reinforce that the federal government is standing by to help with preparations, evacuations and any damage in the storm’s aftermath. For residents, he recommended two government Web sites for advice: or

Human Rights First Group Condemns Shahbaz Taseer Abduction

Human Rights First is appalled by the violent abduction of Shahbaz Taseer

, son of slain Pakistani Governor Salman Taseer, an outspoken opponent of the nation’s blasphemy laws. Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped at gunpoint on Thursday.
“We are shocked and appalled by Shahbaz’s senseless abduction,” said Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino. “We hope those associated with this event will quickly resolve this matter and safely return Shahbaz to his family.”
Since Salman Taseer’s murder in January 2011, Human Rights First has worked closely with Sherbano Taseer, Shahbaz’s sister, in her ongoing efforts to amend blasphemy laws that fuel violence. She has been a strong proponent for tolerance and reform, often meeting with international leaders at the highest levels of government and publishing articles detailing the need for change. During its annual Human Rights Dinner in New York City, the organization will honor Sherbano’s commitment to her father’s cause in the face of ongoing threats to her own safety.

Garbage spoiling Peshawar’s beauty
The heaps of garbage in numerous places have been spoiling the beauty and image of the provincial capital on the one hand and spreading infectious diseases on the other.

A survey conducted by The News showed that the authorities are paying little heed to the garbage and waste materials lying on roadsides despite presence of garbage bins. It shows the lack of responsibility of the concerned authorities and ignorance of people.

The unhygienic conditions in many areas in Peshawar Saddar have been troubling people, as they have to experience the odorous and bad smell of the garbage. Talking to The News, Muhammad Jamal, owner of a general store in Gulberg, said the shopkeepers only clean the front of their shops and they were not responsible for cleaning the entire road because it was the duty of the relevant authorities.

“Residents of the city are also responsible for the dirt. They do not throw the garbage in the bins. Instead they throw the garbage on the roads or on the nearby railway tracks that result in an ugly look and foul smell in the area,” he added.

Rahmanullah Khattak, another shopkeeper, said that roadside garbage and stagnant water were the main sources of spreading diseases in the city and the overflowing garbage cans on the roadside were the cause of odorous smell.

Medical specialist Dr Sohail said stagnant water on the roads and the garbage was the breeding place for mosquitoes and cause of environmental pollution. He urged awareness among the people about hygiene by arranging public awareness campaigns.

Khosa slams Punjab govt. over Shahbaz Taseer's kidnapping

Governor Punjab Latif Khosa strongly criticized the provincial government over the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer, Geo News reported.

He said that either the Punjab government was involved in the kidnapping or it was incompetent. He added that fingers had also been pointed at the Punjab government over the killing of slain Salman Taseer.

Speaking to a press conference at Governor House Lahore, Latif Khosa said that Shahbaz Sharif should come back to control Punjab and rescue Shahbaz Taseer rather than preaching about Karachi’s situation.

The governor said that the policy of reconciliation should not be considered their weakness.

Earlier Salman Taseer was killed and now his son Shahbaz Taseer has been kidnapped; actions like these will not be tolerated. The absence of providing security and the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer could be a conspiracy to derail democracy.

Hurricane Irene moves closer to North Carolina
Tropical storm-force winds and heavy swells from Hurricane Irene loomed just over the horizon Friday morning for residents of North Carolina's south-facing coastal communities.

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Irene was still 375 miles to the southwest of North Carolina at 8 a.m. ET on Friday but tropical storm-force winds were already within 100 miles of the North Carolina coast, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.

The winds and heavy waves should arrive by late morning or early afternoon, he said.

"The timing is such that tonight into Saturday will be the worst for North Carolina and the Virginia Tidewater, Saturday into Sunday for the Delmarva (peninsula) and the eastern part of New Jersey, and then all day Sunday for New England," Read said.

With maximum winds of 110 mph, Irene still fell short Friday morning of major hurricane status and in its 8 a.m. forecast, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is unlikely to strengthen significantly. Forecasters did warn that some intensification is still possible, however.The storm is still expected to bring a storm surge of up to 11 feet to coastal North Carolina, tearing away beaches and likely damaging homes, businesses and other structures in the state before sliding up the East Coast of the United States all the way to New England, Read said.

The U.S. Navy prepared by sending 38 ships to sea, a U.S. Navy official told CNN. In Hampton, Virginia, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation on Friday.

In Hyde County, North Carolina, where officials had already ordered a mandatory evacuation, a caravan of school buses left Friday morning carrying evacuees to shelters as far away as Raleigh, 140 miles away. Many of those evacuating were Hispanic employees of Charles Carawan's seafood packaging business.

But Carawan and his family weren't among those planning to leave.

The 66-year-old owner of Mattamuskeet Seafood, his wife and son plan to ride out the storm along with about $500,000 worth of frozen crab they hope to keep frozen with a rented generator.

"I have nowhere else to go," Carawan said.

Up the coast, where a Sunday landfall in the New England area is likely, preparations were already well under way.

Tens of millions of people could be affected by the storm as it moves up the densely populated East Coast. In New York, emergency officials published evacuation maps for the city.

Frederico Martins of Williston, New York, found the bottled water and flashlight aisles at his local store cleaned out.

"People here are taking it very seriously. Better to be safe than sorry," Martins said, adding that it was "kind of cool" to see people getting ready for the storm.It was a similar story in Plainfield, New Jersey, where generators were going fast.

"Ran into my neighbor, he was trying to buy a generator for his sister. He went to Lowe's and Home Depot, and couldn't find one," said Mario Depeine. "He got some 'insider information' about when an expected shipment of generators will arrive. He has to be there to get one, they're going fast."

Officials in cities along much of the East Coast ordered evacuations.

Amtrak and major U.S. airlines began canceling routes and flights or putting them on a watch list. American Airlines canceled 126 flights Thursday, mostly out of Miami and the Bahamas, an airline spokesman said.

Airlines are expected to cancel more flights Friday.

Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington was postponed until at least next month, officials announced Thursday night.

Pro sports teams juggled their schedules while colleges from Virginia to New Hampshire closed their campuses or delayed dormitory move-ins.

"Everybody should take this very seriously," said North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue, who declared a state of emergency in counties east of Interstate 95. "Everyone is telling us this is a big deal for North Carolina."

Hurricane watches and warnings are in place from North Carolina to Massachusetts, the Hurricane Center said.

A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm-force winds. A hurricane has sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.

"Significant" storm surge flooding was possible within watch areas. Hurricane watches, issued 48 hours in advance of tropical storm-force winds, indicate hurricane conditions are possible.
A tropical storm warning, which indicates sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph are possible in the next 36 hours, was in effect for the portions of coastal South Carolina.

Governors of Delaware, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland declared states of emergency as Irene threatened to wreak havoc along the East Coast. Emergency declarations allow states to free funds and prepare resources that may be needed.

The last major hurricane to strike the United States was Wilma in 2005, which was a Category 3 at landfall in southwest Florida.

Condoleezza Rice memoir coming this fall

Los Angeles Times

Condoleezza Rice, secretary of State during President George W. Bush's second term, will publish a political memoir this fall with Crown.

The book, "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington," is due Nov. 1, a little later than might be expected.

September will mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks during Bush's first term, when Rice was his national security advisor. In that role, Rice was a key player in the country's response to the attacks.

In a news release, Crown says that Rice's book "describes the harrowing terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and chronicles her experience of appearing before the 9/11 Commission, for which she was broadly saluted for her grace and forthrightness. She also reveals new details about the contentious debates in the lead-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

But does publishing the book more than a month after the anniversary indicate that the stories Rice has to tell about her time in Washington won't be revelatory?

Other important issues that Rice confronted in Washington that might be addressed in "No Higher Honor": the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and America's use of torture in interrogations.

Before entering the administration, Rice was provost at Stanford. She had previously served under President George H.W. Bush in the National Security Council.

"No Higher Honor" is Rice's first memoir of her life in politics; she is also the author of "Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family," which was a bestseller.

She is an accomplished pianist and has appeared, as herself, on television's "30 Rock."

Army Must Reveal Facts About Disappearances, Killings in Balochistan: Governor Magsi

Balochistan’s Governor Nawaz Zulfiqar Magsi has said time is running out in Balochistan and more and more Baloch youngsters are joining the rebellion. The people are continuously exercising their right to question the authorities’ actions in the province.
“I have told the army chief publicly to provide answers to the killing of the disappered people in my province. People have the right to know the facts behind the current state of affairs,” he said while talking to a former senator and a newspaper editor Syed Fasehi Iqbal.
Magsi, also a former Balochistan chief minister, said if the State failed to expose the perpetarots of injsustice and violence, it was very likely that people would hold the State itself responsible for whatever is happening.
“Nawab Akbar Bugti was a truly respected Baloch tribal and political leader who could resolve the problems of Balochistan,” he referred to the seventy-nine year old Baloch leader who was killed in a military operation in 2006.

Lahore in free fall?

His father died for a value system he held dear, and which negated all bigotry and religious extremism. Shahbaz Taseer is now punished for being his father’s son. Are they going to leverage his release with the Taseers being pressured into accepting blood money and let Salmaan Taseer’s killer walk free? Anything is possible in Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab, with the Sharifs presiding over a cabinet of ministers, some of whom are hand in glove with the banned militant outfits. The Punjab government’s soft-peddling on rising acts of extremist terrorism is little secret. Shahbazpura it is.

The abduction at gunpoint of Shahbaz Taseer from near his Gulberg home in Lahore is a sorry reminder that Pakistan’s second city is no more the safest place to be. This is the second high-profile kidnapping this month after the American development worker, Warren Weinstein, was taken away from his home in Model Town. Now those aren’t the neighbourhoods with a high crime rate, so these are obviously no ordinary crimes. They have all the extremist symbolism attached to them.

And hear this: while Lahore falls apart, the Punjab chief minister tours Sindh to sympathise with the flood victims in Badin and victims of the May 12, 2007 killings in Karachi, offering his sterling advice on how to tackle the law and order situation in this troubled metropolis from the safe environs of a five-star hotel. Why isn’t there a voice in the media saying that this Shahbaz (Sharif) is not up to his job, when there’s a chorus against the failure of the Karachi and Sindh administrations in the same quarters? While Kasur drowns in floodwaters, Mr Sharif feels pain and anguish for the flood-affected of Badin. As Punjab goes under the yoke of Talibanisation, with a series of terrorist attacks and kidnappings rocking the province, the Punjab CM’s heart bleeds for targeted killings in Karachi. Someone please help find the logic.

A terrible wave of extremism grips Punjab, while the police do little besides moral-policing citizens. Can someone ask the Punjab government that with such a terrible wave of extremism raging there, how many militants has the police nabbed so far? How many have been brought to justice? Is there really a figure to be quoted? Nay, the government’s priorities lie elsewhere. The Lahore police chief even thwarted the attempt at nabbing the kidnappers of Warren Weinstein by blowing the whistle at the wrong time. This is precisely why the Americans had to go it alone to kill bin Laden. Our law enforcers are not only inept, they have their strings attached to the fingers of more inept people in the administration.

Because nothing is done in Lahore without the CM being behind it, it is obvious that the cops sniffing people’s breath on the streets of Lahore have such explicit orders. Never mind the firearms that one may be carrying, and which may be used for terrorising the people, staging terrorist attacks on shrines or kidnappings, Lahore law enforcers only ensure that you don’t fly a kite by day or consume alcohol by night. And you are free to kill any number of Ahmadis even as they pray to the same Allah as you do. Can’t always find an Ahmadi? Well, there’s always a Shahbaz Bhatti somewhere in a Christian ghetto or a Salman Taseer who would stand up for him, so you are free to have a go at them instead. Welcome to Lahore, 2011.

The self-righteous cries for saving Karachi from the terror of political parties’ armed wings emanating from Lahore by such eminent people as Imran Khan, Shahbaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan, for instance, are ill-timed, to say the least. Why don’t they do something about fixing Lahore, which for all practical purposes is becoming free-for-all. And all this in the name of Allah, which is a real shame.

The abduction of Warren Weinstein and Shahbaz Taseer are but indications of the severity of the threat posed to Punjab by rising extremism. Will Imran Khan, even if only with his supporters at Lums, stage a dharna at Lahore’s Charing Cross against this evil? Some fat chance, well… in Shahbazpura!

Son of slain Pakistani governor kidnapped

A senior police officer says gunmen have kidnapped the son of a Pakistani governor who was killed by an Islamist extremist earlier this year.
Officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema told The Associated Press that the governor's son, Shahbaz Taseer, was taken from his car on Friday by armed men in the eastern city of Lahore.
The abducted man's brother, Shaheryar Taseer, confirmed the kidnapping.
In January, an Islamist militant killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The killer confessed after the arrest, saying he murdered Taseer because of his opposition to laws that carry the death penalty for blaspheming Islam.