Saturday, August 27, 2011

New York Governor Orders Closure of NYC Mass Transit

MTA to shut down systemwide beginning Saturday at noon ahead of Hurricane Irene

Lahore,Abductions on the rise in City

Model Town Division of City Police badly failed to recover Amir Aftab Malik, son-in-law of Gen (r) Tariq Majeed and American citizen Dr Warren Weinstein, who were kidnapped on gunpoint from the different vicinities of the same police division.
According to the facts, Amir was kidnapped on August 25, 2010 whereas Dr Warren was abducted on August 13, 2011. The City Police especially SP Omer Virk-led CIA and SPs Malik Awais and Shoaib Khuram-led Operations and Investigation Wings of Model Town Division are clueless about the whereabouts of the kidnappers or abductees till filing of this report.
“A year has passed but no one knows where is Amir, a jeweller and Garden Town Traders Union President who was kidnapped when he was entering his home in Faisal Town,” said family sources.
According to them, they learnt several times that Taliban-led Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have kidnapped Amir and even someone from law enforcement agencies went on to say that Amir had been sent to Afghanistan.
The family sources further said that in different span of times, they further learnt that the Taliban were demanding immediate release of their 50 comrades including Aqeel alias Dr Usman and Zubair alias Naik Muhammad and were demanding Rs 300 million as ransom.
When contacted, couple of police investigators, requesting anonymity said the teams are yet probing into the matter and investigating various aspects of the case, including the possibility of kidnapping for ransom and monetary dispute. “Yes, terrorism act cannot be ruled out but we are still clueless,” they said, adding the kidnappers had not contacted the family so far.
On the other side, several persons broke into a house in Model Town on August 13, overcame security guards and kidnapped US citizen identified as an international development expert Dr Warren Weinstein.
“Weinstein had been working for JE Austin & Associates, an Arlington, Virginia-based consulting firm, on a development project in tribal areas of the country where troops are battling RAW, Mossad and CIA-fed extremists for the last several years,” a senior security source said. Reported crime statistics show that about four to five people, majority of them girls, are kidnapped every day in one way or the other in the provincial capital. Ironically, such incidents are not reported most of time in official diary of the City Police due to certain reasons. Law enforcement experts, however, have attributed this ever deteriorating situation across the province to bad governance at provincial as well as at federal level. They say ‘crime-encouraging’ policies are made at federal level whereas the provinces are bearing the consequences. They further said dozens of such incidents in the provincial capital have exposed the real performance of the government, law enforcement agencies and other security institutions.
Meanwhile, adopting old tradition, the City Police were put on high alert following the abduction of Shahbaz Taseer on Friday.
Patrolling has been intensified throughout the city besides cordoning off all intercity routes in the wake of Shahbaz Taseer kidnapping, said Capital City Police Officer Ahmad Raza Tahir. He said Additional SPs and SDPOs had been directed to take effective precautionary measures, especially in crowded public places, to prevent incidents of terrorism and subversion.

Minorities slam Taseer’s kidnap

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has condemned the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer, the son of late governor Salmaan Taseer, and demanded the provincial government recover him at the earliest. In a joint statement issued by PM’s adviser on Minorities Affairs as well as APMA chairman Dr Paul Bhatti, MPAs Najmi Saleem, Tahir Naveed, Pervaiz Rafiq, Balochistan Minister Jaffar George condemned the incident of young Taseer’s kidnapping.

New York CITY:No subway, no Broadway: NYC goes dark for Irene

The nation's biggest subway system was ordered shut down as Hurricane Irene bore down Friday, potentially paralyzing movement for millions of carless people even as more than 300,000 were told to evacuate to safer places.

The unprecedented orders, which affect New Yorkers from the Bronx's most distant reaches down through Manhattan and out to the beaches of Brooklyn and Queens, dealt the congested metropolis a formidable logistical challenge that raised more questions than it resolved:
Where are all of those people in New York's flood-prone areas supposed to go? And, more pointedly, how are they going to get there — especially since many don't own a car?
Subways, buses and trains in one of the world's largest public transportation systems were to stop running at noon Saturday. Bridges and tunnels also could be closed as the storm approaches, clogging traffic in an already congested city.
The five main New York City-area airports were also scheduled to close at noon Saturday for arriving passenger flights. Three of them, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, are among the busiest airports in the nation.

Officials hoped most residents would stay with family and friends, and for the rest the city opened nearly 100 shelters with a capacity of 71,000 people.
Many people scoffed at the danger and vowed to ride it out at home.
"How can I get out of Coney Island? What am I going to do? Run with this walker?" said 82-year-old Abe Feinstein, who has lived since the early 1960s on the eighth floor of a building that overlooks the famed Coney Island boardwalk.
He said he watched Hurricane Gloria in 1985 from an apartment down the street.
"I think I have nothing to worry about," he said. "I've been through bad weather before. It's just not going to be a problem for us."
Irene was expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, then roll up the I-95 corridor reaching New York on Sunday. A hurricane warning was issued for the city Friday afternoon, the first time that's happened since Gloria.
If the storm stays on its current path, skyscraper windows could shatter, tree limbs would fall and debris would be tossed around. Streets in southern tip of the city could be under a few feet of water, and police readied rescue boats but said they wouldn't go out if conditions were poor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was confident people would get out of the storm's way.
"We do not have the manpower to go door-to-door and drag people out of their homes," he said. "Nobody's going to get fined. Nobody's going to go to jail. But if you don't follow this, people might die."
Several New York landmarks were under the evacuation order, including the Battery Park City area, where tourists catch ferries to the Statue of Liberty. Construction was stopping throughout the city, and workers at the site of the World Trade Center were dismantling a crane and securing equipment. Bloomberg said there would be no effect on the Sept. 11 memorial opening the day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Sporting events, concerts and even Broadway were going dark.
In Lower Manhattan, Milton Melendez and partner Shea Collins were headed to uptown to a neighborhood north of Little Italy. Melendez, who survived Hurricane David as a child in the Dominican Republic, was worried about windows being blown out at their apartment. Collins was a little more blase.
"This is the same thing as a snowstorm," she said. "They say there's going to be 10 feet and there's four inches."
Bloomberg weathered criticism after a Dec. 26 storm dumped nearly two feet of snow that seemed to catch officials by surprise. Subway trains, buses and ambulances got stuck in the snow, some for hours, and streets were impassable for days. Bloomberg ultimately called it an "inadequate and unacceptable" response.
This time officials weren't taking any chances. Transit officials said they can't run once sustained winds reach 39 mph, and they need eight hours to move trains and equipment to safety.
The subway system won't reopen until at least Monday, after pumps remove water from flooded stations. Even on a dry day, about 200 pump rooms remove between 13 million to 15 million gallons of water that seeps into the tunnels deep underground.
Still, not everyone was worried.
Probir Roy, a Bangladesh native who was waiting for a bus to New Jersey, went through a tsunami when he was 10.
"I'm not scared. It's my wife," said the Wall Street manager, who was traveling to Clifton, N.J. "I'm going by bus. She took my car."
There are about 1.6 million people in Manhattan and about 6.8 million in the city's other four boroughs.
Bloomberg warned residents not to be fooled by the sunny weather Friday and said police officers would use loudspeakers on patrol vehicles to spread the word about the evacuation.
At the Red Hook Lobster Pound facing the New York Harbor, owner Ralph Gorham had about $26,000 worth of lobster stored in a refrigerator, plus a tank filled with live crustaceans from Maine. "I'm staying," he said. "But if we get, say, a few feet of water in here, it'll be a huge loss."
For those with cars, parking was available at the city's evacuation centers. From there, each family will be assigned to a shelter and taken there by bus.
In the Queens community of the Rockaways, more than 111,000 people live on a barrier peninsula connected to the city by two bridges and to Long Island to the west.
The city's public transit system carries about 5 million passengers on an average weekday, and the entire system has never before been halted because of natural disaster. It was seriously hobbled by an August 2007 rainstorm that disabled or delayed every one of the city's subway lines. And it was shut down after the 9/11 attacks and during a 2005 strike.
"It's possible to evacuate without going very far," said John Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas A&M University meteorologist who has been involved in disaster planning in his role as the state climatologist. "The big wild card for New York is the fact that nobody there is used to a hurricane and can't rely on common sense or past experience as a guide. And what we learned from evacuations in Houston is that people rely on their friends and their own experience as much as, or more than, they rely on public officials."
Glenn Corbett, a professor who teaches in the emergency management program at the city's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he was startled at how early the city planned to halt subways.
"You can tell people to do things, and that doesn't actually mean they're going to do it until the last possible moment. And then what?" he said.
In the last 200 years, New York has seen only a few significant hurricanes. In September of 1821, a hurricane raised tides by 13 feet in an hour and flooded the southernmost tip of Manhattan in an area that now includes Wall Street and the World Trade Center memorial. In 1938, a storm dubbed the Long Island Express came ashore about 75 miles east of the city on neighboring Long Island and then hit New England, killing 700 people and leaving 63,000 homeless. And in 1944, an area was flooded in Midtown, where Times Square, Broadway theaters and the Empire State Building are located.
Workers at the North Cove marina were busy anchoring down boats or getting ready to set sail up the Hudson River. A number of yachts were leaving.
"It's going to be boats versus concrete and I don't think fiberglass is going to win," said Elizabeth Pellatte, the deck supervisor and assistant to the owner of the $35 million Remember When yacht. "It will be worth the $10,000 in gas to save $1 million in damage."
Ordinarily, the boat is based in Florida.
"We spend summers up here usually to escape the hurricanes but this time, one followed us," she said.

New York City With Storm Near, 370,000 in City Get Evacuation Order

New York City officials issued what they called an unprecedented order on Friday for the evacuation of about 370,000 residents of low-lying areas at the city’s edges — from the expensive apartments in Battery Park City to the roller coaster in Coney Island to the dilapidated boardwalk in the Rockaways — warning that Hurricane Irene was such a threat that people living there simply had to get out.Officials made what they said was another first-of-its-kind decision, announcing plans to shut down the city’s entire transit system Saturday — all 468 subway stations and 840 miles of tracks, and the rest of the nation’s largest mass transit network: thousands of buses in the city, as well as the buses and commuter trains that reach from Midtown Manhattan to the suburbs.

Underscoring what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other officials said was the seriousness of the threat, President Obama approved a request from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to declare a federal emergency in the state while the hurricane was still several hundred miles away, churning toward the Carolinas. The city was part of a hurricane warning that took in hundreds of miles of coastline, from Sandy Hook, N.J., to Sagamore Beach, Mass.

The hurricane, 290 miles of fury dancing angrily across the Atlantic Ocean toward the coast, was actually advancing more slowly than most late-summer storms, the National Weather Service said. It said that by doing a minuet instead of a faster step, the storm would prolong the pounding it delivered to coastal areas when it reached them.

A Weather Service forecast Friday night said rain associated with the storm would begin in Manhattan after 11 a.m. Saturday with conditions worsening into Sunday.

“You only have to look at the weather maps to understand how big this storm is and how unique it is,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference on Friday at City Hall, “and it’s heading basically for us.”

The increasingly ominous announcements from officials — and the wall-to-wall coverage — sent New Yorkers hurrying to buy staples like canned food and candles. “Is this the apocalypse supply line?” a man asked as he stood in a line that stretched outside a hardware store on First Avenue, waiting to buy batteries.

Shoppers in places found that the shelves had been cleaned out. In shore towns in New Jersey and on Long Island, vacationers waited in lines at gas stations and watched as bulldozers built berms on low-lying beach roads.

In Point Lookout on Long Island, as in Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey, homeowners covered windows with plywood, and boaters struggled to get their vessels away from docks. There were lines at the ramps at marinas as boats were pulled from the water and hitched on trailers, one at a time.

In the city — from high rises in Manhattan to smaller buildings in Queens and Brooklyn — apartment dwellers with balconies and terraces hauled in their patio furniture and their potted plants. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York field office, with more than 1,000 agents in two buildings in Lower Manhattan, told employees by e-mail that they should put files in drawers for the weekend rather than leave them lying on their desks, apparently out of concern that paperwork would go flying if the storm broke the windows.

The announcement about the transit shutdown and the evacuation of what the city called Zone A low-lying areas prompted a cascade of cancellations for Saturday and Sunday: Broadway shows, the Mets’ games against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, the performances by the Dave Matthews Band on Governors Island and the outdoor showing of opera movies at Lincoln Center, among others. Even the New York Aquarium and the Bronx, Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos closed for the weekend.

Starting at noon Saturday, all three major airports in the New York region will be closed to arriving flights. They will remain open for departures, pending changes in the weather, but most of those scheduled departures have already been canceled, according to Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman.Some Atlantic City casinos made plans to stop rolling the dice and turn off the slot machines by 8 p.m. Friday. The naval submarine base in Groton, Conn., sent four submarines out to ride out the storm deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

And Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said that all lanes of a 28-mile stretch of Route 72 in Ocean County would go in only one direction — westward — beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday to help speed the trip away from Long Beach Island, which is connected to the mainland by only a single bridge. He said he was also considering reversing traffic on part of the Garden State Parkway to help get drivers away from the shore.

But some beachgoers were staying. Some were surfers who wanted to catch a last wave. Mr. Christie, for his part, sounded annoyed that they had not followed his instructions when he said at a late-afternoon briefing that he had seen television coverage of “people sitting on the beach in Asbury Park.”

“Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out — you’re done,” he said. “You’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach. Get in your cars, and get out of those areas. You know, it amazes me that you have responsible elected officials from North Carolina north through Massachusetts, along with National Weather Service folks, telling you this is going to be an enormous storm and something for New Jersey that we haven’t seen in over 60 years. Do not waste any more time working on your tan.”

Mayor Bloomberg said no one would be fined for violating the city’s evacuation orders. “Nobody’s going to go to jail,” he said, but he warned that the storm’s consequences could be fatal.

The number of people covered by the evacuation order was provided late Friday by Christopher Gilbride, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management. An estimate of 250,000 had earlier been cited by the city.

Officials said the subway shutdown was prompted mainly by wind estimates that suggested the hurricane could rock subway cars in places where they run above ground. The commuter rail lines that serve Long Island, Westchester County and Connecticut will also be shut down, as will New Jersey Transit operations. New Jersey Transit will suspend train service at noon Saturday and will stop bus service six hours later.

Mr. Cuomo said tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and on two other bridges in low-lying Brooklyn leading to the Rockaways would be suspended to help speed the evacuation. He also said that a half-dozen bridges — including the George Washington, the Robert F. Kennedy (formerly the Triborough), the Throgs Neck and the Whitestone — would be closed if winds reached 60 miles an hour for more than a short time.

Officials decided to go ahead with the Zone A evacuations, which they had first mentioned as a possibility on Thursday, because, Mr. Bloomberg said, “Irene is now bearing down on us at a faster speed than it was.” As he stepped up the plans on Friday, the city was already evacuating hospitals and nursing homes in low-lying areas. State officials continued arrangements for coordinating emergency services and restoring electricity if the storm does the kind of damage many fear.

Mr. Bloomberg said that 91 evacuation centers and shelters opened on Friday for people who could not stay in their homes. The Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, said 20 shelters would be open by the time the storm hit.

Mr. Bloomberg had said Thursday that the city was ordering nursing homes and hospitals in those areas to evacuate residents and patients beginning at 8 a.m. Friday unless they received special permission from state and city health officials.

The city ordered construction work halted until 7 a.m. Monday. With the worst of the storm expected over the weekend, when relatively few construction crews would normally be on the job, the Buildings Department said Friday that its inspectors were checking construction sites to see that equipment had been secured. It said it would check over the weekend that builders complied with the no-work order.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said officials were preparing for “tremendous tree damage” and the loss of electricity across the entire state.

Consolidated Edison warned that it would have to cut off power to some customers if underground pipes and cables became submerged in water. To be ready for repairs, Con Ed said it was bringing in 800 additional workers from as far away as Texas.

In some Zone A areas, residents seemed unsure what to do: Evacuate or not? But some had their backpacks on and their suitcases-on-wheels rolling.

“I’m getting out of here,” said Mila Downes, 25, of England, who was visiting her sister. “I expected some excitement in New York City, but not an earthquake and a hurricane on the same week.”

US senator asks Pakistan to curb Afghan explosives

A US senator visiting Islamabad said Friday he is pressing Pakistan to reduce the flow of an explosives material used in roadside bombs that wound and kill hundreds of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Senator Robert Casey said in a conference call that his talks with civilian and military leaders as well as senators focused on having Pakistan implement its strategy to cut shipments of ammonium nitrate or fertilizer.
"I want to see their strategy implemented, and then we'll be able to better assess it. But they have not implemented a strategy yet, and... that's one of the reasons I'm over here," Casey told reporters.
But he added: "I think we made real progress impressing upon the Pakistani leadership our sense of urgency to get results on this strategy to reduce the flow of ammonium nitrate into Afghanistan."
He said the strategy involves better law enforcement, greater Pakistani public awareness of the threat posed by the chemicals, tracking the material better by dyeing it a certain color and better border interdiction.
"We have been told they will begin the implementation of this plan this fall, but not a date per se," Casey said after meeting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
Casey, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, He said last year 368 US servicemen and women were injured or killed by the bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Some 125 Americans have been killed this year by IEDs, he added.
"It is very, very rare that someone who is killed in action is not killed by an IED," he said.
"And that's why we've got to take steps to focus intensively on a strategy against this kind of explosive device and the main ingredient in that explosive device," Casey added.
Casey said his Pakistani interlocutors still disagreed strongly with the secret May 2 US raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan but were determined not to let it destroy their counter-terror cooperation.
"What I think came through today and yesterday was their willingness ... just to look beyond this and to move... forward," Casey said, adding the raid that violated Pakistani sovereignty will always be "a point of contention."

Ahmed Faraz's anniversary goes unnoticed in KP‎

No literary function was held here to remember Ahmed Faraz on his third death anniversary in his native province where his brother is the governor nowadays.

The famous Urdu poet Syed Ahmad Shah from Kohat, commonly known as Ahmad Faraz, died in Islamabad where he was laid to rest in Sector H-8 on August 25 three years ago. It could be due to Ramazan that no literary organisation held any event to observe his death anniversary in Peshawar or elsewhere.

Ahmad Faraz’s brother Syed Masood Kausar is a PPP leader and governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Faraz studied in Edwardes College Peshawar and then did his master’s in Urdu and Persian from the University of Peshawar.

He spent early days of his life in his hometown Kohat, but later moved to Peshawar and spent most of his time in the company of noted poets Farigh Bukhari, Raza Hamdani, Khatir Ghaznavi and Mohsin Ihsan.

The Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) has renamed Highland Chowk as Ahmed Faraz Chowk in the city where he lived for years.

Shahbaz Taseer’s kidnapping

Daily Times

In a startling development, slain Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from Lahore in broad daylight yesterday morning. Shahbaz was on his way to his office when he was intercepted by a group of armed men in cars and motorcycles and whisked away along with a friend who was riding with him. The friend was later released, but there is no word where and why Shahbaz was taken away by his abductors. So far there has been no claim of responsibility, therefore conjecture as to the possible perpetrators and their motives must lie in the realm of speculation. There appear at first glance to be three likely suspects: ‘friends’ of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Salmaan Taseer, with the possible motive of pressurising the authorities to release the murderer; fanatics who think the Taseer family is fair game for their unwanted attentions in the light of the warped perception that Salmaan Taseer’s criticism of the misuse and abuse of the blasphemy law was itself tantamount to blasphemy; and criminals of the kidnapping for ransom variety. A joint investigation team has been set up, all exits from Lahore have been sealed, and the incident has attracted the notice of the president, prime minister and the Punjab chief minister. Condemnations of the kidnapping have flown in thick and fast, including statements from Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. We pray that Shahbaz is returned to his distraught family well and safe.

Having said that, there are some unanswered questions and suspicions surrounding the whole affair. Whoever is behind this heinous crime seemed to know Shahbaz’s routine, timing and route every day to his office, etc. That gives rise to the suspicion that either the perpetrators had been watching Shahbaz’s movements for some time, or they had insider information. Suspicion is further aroused by the fact that, contrary to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s repeated statement on television that Shahbaz had been provided a security detail but was in the habit of sometimes not taking the detail with him (a patent distortion of the truth), on the day of the occurrence, the security detail failed to turn up. Let us not forget that it was one of Salmaan Taseer’s own official security guards who shot him down in cowardly fashion and in cold blood in broad daylight. The rest of the security detail that day did not even twitch in response. Mumtaz Qadri’s lionisation by the right wing and religious extremists, including sadly sections of the lawyers community, focused minds on how far the influence of such warped ideas runs, including questions about how far the police and security forces are themselves imbued with extremist notions. The Taseer family, including Shahbaz, had been receiving threats since Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. That should have been enough to alert our somnolent security forces to take greater care. Even if, for the sake of argument, the mea culpa put forward by Rana Sanaullah and the high ups of the Punjab police that Shahbaz refused to take the security detail with him is accepted, why, in the light of the obtaining circumstances, were the security people so lax as to ‘surrender’ their clearly defined responsibility and duty? In the light of the above, there must remain questions whether Shahbaz Taseer’s kidnapping is merely a security lapse or a deep conspiracy.

The law and order and security situation in Punjab has given rise to concerns across the board in recent days. Not only is crime increasing, including kidnapping for ransom, a phenomenon to be expected when economic hardship is producing incremental desperation amongst the marginalised, the security situation is far from satisfactory, a result perhaps of the Punjab government’s acknowledged ‘soft’ approach to extremists and terrorists. In Punjab at least, such forces have been emboldened by the ruling PML-N’s kid gloves attitude to them, if not active collusion in some instances. It is a sad comment on the justice system that the Supreme Court’s suo motu notice produced a death sentence for the Rangers involved in the Sarfaraz Shah murder in Karachi within a month, but in Salmaan Taseer’s open and shut case with a self-confessed murderer, seven months have passed but the case is not being dealt with with any despatch. Had Salmaan Taseer’s murderer been administered swift and deserved justice by now, perhaps the right message would have gone out to Mumtaz Qadri’s ilk that such blatant murderous intent and actions would invite the full sanction of the law. Instead, the tardy pace of the proceedings in that case may well have encouraged such elements into believing they can get away with it. That view may be reinforced by the lack of closure in Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination as well. It is now incumbent on the Punjab government and the provincial and federal law enforcement authorities to ensure the safe and unharmed recovery of Shahbaz Taseer. His family has already suffered grievously. We need to apply balm to their wounds, not sprinkle salt on them.