Monday, August 29, 2011

Six years after Katrina, praise for Irene response

Six years after "Katrina" became shorthand for a botched response to a crisis, authorities at all levels of government are winning praise for their handling of Hurricane Irene.
"Who would have thought, here we are, six years later, and instead of debating failures, we're debating being overprepared?" Chad Sweet, who served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said Monday. "I think it's a good thing."
As Irene headed for the East Coast over the weekend, governors and mayors from the Carolinas to New England ordered residents to leave low-lying coastal areas. President Barack Obama cut his summer vacation a day short to return to Washington, pledging to make sure federal agencies "are doing everything in their power" to help after the storm moved inland Sunday.
Though it lost steam as it moved toward New York, Irene still killed 21 people in nine states and caused flooding as far north as Vermont. An estimated 3 million remained without power Monday.Katrina, by comparison, killed 1,464 people in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi and 21 in other states after it struck the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005. It flattened much of coastal Mississippi and flooded New Orleans when the city's protective levees failed, leaving tens of thousands stranded.
While some agencies like the Coast Guard won praise for their rescue efforts, the slow and disengaged response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was a major embarrassment for the Bush administration. A bipartisan investigation by Congress called it "a national failure" at all levels of government, "an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare."

But Sweet told CNN's "American Morning" that FEMA appears to have learned hard lessons since then. The agency that has responded to Irene under Director Craig Fugate is "FEMA 2.0," one that tries to stay ahead of events and embraces social media to communicate.
"What Mr. Fugate is doing is prepositioning the assets before the storm hits and being there," he said. "We've heard this across the board, whether it's Republican or Democratic leaders across the states, thanking FEMA for being forward-leaning. That's the right model."
Sweet also praised leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for sounding the alarms early and working closely with FEMA and other federal agencies.

"We saw leadership in close collaboration as a team," he said.
And retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the military response to Katrina, told that early calls to evacuate were "the right thing to do."
"I've been in the storm business for years, and I've never seen officials be prudent enough to cancel commercial and sporting events before a storm," he said. "Folks in the Northeast did that. The day before Katrina, we had a football game in Baton Rouge. That's how far the community has come."
The name "Katrina" quickly became a standard-issue epithet after the 2005 disaster. Critics tried to dub the 2010 Gulf oil disaster "Obama's Katrina," while a paralyzing Northeastern blizzard the following December became either "Christie's Katrina" or "Bloomberg's Katrina," depending on one's side of the Hudson and political bent.
Ahead of Irene, Fugate -- a veteran of numerous hurricanes in his previous job as Florida's emergency management chief -- dismissed suggestions that the warnings being issued were tinged by fears of a repeat of the 2005 storm.
"This is how I've always been operating," he told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Friday. "This is how we did it when I was in Florida. This is what we do here in the president's administration, as we bring the team together. We get the team ready. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But we're not going to wait to find how bad it is before we get ready."

The nerve centre of al-Qaeda lies in Pakistan: Pentagon

Al-Qaeda's "nerve center" lies in Pakistan even though the recent killings of Osama bin Laden in May and now its number two Atiyah abd al-Rahman has dealt the global terror group severe blow, the Pentagon on Monday said.

Al-Qaeda in Pakistan clearly remains a nerve center of the organisation, remains dangerous. They have suffered significant losses in recent years," Pentagon spokesman, George Little told reporters during an off-camera news conference here.

Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula also remains a considerable concern, Little said in response to a question.

"I think the Secretary (of Defense) has made the key point that keeping up the intense pressure on leadership of al-Qaeda and its militant allies is very important.

"He believes that this is essential to protecting this country. It is essential to eventually defeating and dismantling al-Qaeda," he said.

"The latest death of Atiyah abd al-Rahman, who had grown in prominence inside Al Qaeda in recent years is a significant blow to the group," Little said.

MQM should offer consolation to Pakhtuns: ANP

Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali said on Monday that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) should offer consolation to the Pakhtuns, referring to senior PPP member Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations against the MQM, DawnNews reported.

“Serious allegations have been made against MQM and Interior Minister Rehman Malik,” said Wali.

Wali said in order to solve Karachi’s problems it is necessary to analyse the situation after the May 12 incident.

“The Supreme Court should summon Zulfikar Mirza in court so things become clear,” said Wali.

Wali said if the MQM does not clarify its self against the allegations made by Zulfiqar Mirza then ANP will take appropriate action.

Rehman Malik’s plea to the Supreme Court

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has appealed to the Supreme Court to impose ban on collection of skins of sacrificial animals and ‘Fitra’ by political parties.

It will help maintaining peace in Karachi, he said while talking to media at State Guest house after presiding over law and order meeting here on Monday.

He said the situation in the city has improved but strict action will remain in place against criminals to ensure permanent peace.

“If we get information about the presence of arms or criminals in the office of any political party, strict action will be taken against the responsible”, he added.

He said joint interrogation team led by SSP has been formed for investigation of accused, arrested during the operation. The team will send its report to Home Secretary.

The interior Minister said that the SHOs are responsible for maintaining peace in their respective areas, and in case they fail to fulfill their responsibility, action will be taken against them.

To a question about allegations by Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza against him, he said, “I have requested the prime minister to conduct judicial inquiry into the allegation”.

He said “the prime minister has assigned me with the task of maintaining peace in Karachi, and I will complete it successfully”.

Karachi violence: SC adjourns hearing till Tuesday

The Supreme Court’s Karachi registry began hearing the suo moto case regarding the security situation in Karachi, Geo News reported. The case is being heard by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The Chief Justice asked what steps were taken by the government over the violation of fundamental rights and who was backing killers in Karachi. The apex court also summoned reports from intelligence agencies from the attorney general

During proceedings, IG Sindh Wajid Durrani informed the court that 306 people had been killed during July 24 and August 24. 25 bodies were recovered, 17 of which were recovered in gunny sacks. 332 cases were also lodged.

The Chief Justice asked the IG if he had investigated where the abducted people were taken and that he should have recorded the statement of at least one of the abducted. The IG informed the court that 20 criminals had been arrested but those abducted had failed to identity anyone due to fear. In his defense the IG told the court that those abducted on August 19 had been recovered.

In his remarks, the Chief Justice said the protection of life and property lay with institutions. He asked why SHO’s were not aware of crime in their jurisdiction. To this, IGP Sindh Wajid Ali Durrani replied that police and ordinary citizens were not allowed entry in no-go areas of Karachi. He also informed the court that extortion was a problem which was plaguing the city for the last 10-12 years.

Durrani informed the court about weapons which were present in the city, such as rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns to which the Chief Justice asked where were these weapons coming from? The Chief Justice asked the IG where torture cells had been discovered, to which Durrani replied that the police had not found any.

The chief justice formed two benches for hearing cases at the Karachi Registry on August 29 and 30. The first bench is headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while the second bench will be headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

The families of the victims of target killings were also asked to volunteer their appearance before the apex court and may also submit any evidence, if available.

The court has adjourned the hearing till Tuesday.

People are waiting for end of ‘Don’ Altaf: Muhajir Qaumi Movement

If sensitive departments and police would indicate the real elements behind targeted killing in Karachi in the Supreme Court, then it is sure that the mafia, which has spread its legs from Karachi to London and involved in carnage would be unveiled.
This was said by Divisional Organizer Muhajir Qaumi Movement Maqbool Hussain, Joint Organizer Khalid Hameed and Information Secretary Mayo Shafiq Ahmed in a joint statement issued from temporary Bait-ul-Hamza, headquarters of Muhajir Qaumi Movement.
They said that Altaf Hussain

is a Don of the mafia involved in targeted killing. Muhajirs have not astonished with the news items regarding taking Altaf into custody, as they all know the black deeds of his organization. The Muhajir people are waiting anxiously for his dreadful end, which played bloodshed of people of Karachi especially Muhajir youth during last two decades just to keep hold on the city.
They said that Altaf Hussain introduced politics of arms in Karachi, which impedes the developmental programme of Muhajir Qaumi Movement. He converted Karachi into “no go area” for Muhajir Qaumi Movement and slain almost 400 leaders during last nine years. His organization also pushed thousand of the supporters of Muhajir Qaumi Movement to leave the city forcibly.
They were of the view that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif rightly said that his party could not get desired results at Karachi due to armed politics. But it must be told to the nation that why PML (N) and other political parties, by violating the declaration of All Parties Conference (APC), held in 2007 want to maintain relations with the organization that was behind the incident of 12 May.

They claimed that only Muhajir Qaumi Movement could break the myth of Altaf Hussain at Karachi, if other political parties would carry out complete boycott of him and his radical party.

2011 Youth Model Contest wraps up in Beijing

The New Silk Road's 2011 Youth Model Contest concluded last week in Beijing. Naturally, all the children wanted to look their best, so they, along with their parents, did everything they could to shape themselves. Let's take a look.

This was not actually a fashion show. It was a youth model contest with many beautiful and confident young people. Although they are children, the show provided audiences a real eyeful. These young models have shown their talents on par with some professionals.

But for the kids, the contest is more like a way to have fun, with no intention of becoming a model.

A model trainer said, "We have two directions for this contest. One is to let children participate in this kind of contest to promote their hobbies. The other is to train them to have good temperament and manner for themselves to give others a nice impression."

A child model said, "I think I became much braver after the contest."

The contest provides young people with a great opportunity to show themselves in front of an audience and rise to the challenge.

Gaddafi remains a threat to Libya, world: rebel chief

Muammar Gaddafi is still a threat to Libya and the world, as his whereabouts remain misty, chief of the executive board of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Mostafa Abdel Jalil said here Monday.

At a meeting, held in the Qatari capital of Doha, of senior military figures from countries participated in the military actions in Libya in the past months, Jalil called on the coalition to further help and support the North African nation, as no concrete information about the whereabouts of the embattled Libyan leader and his sons were currently available.

The rebel fighters captured last Tuesday Gaddafi's Bab al- Azizya compound in the capital Tripoli, but Gaddafi had already withdrawn "tactically."

Analysts say the large amount of missiles, and chemical weapons reportedly possessed by Gaddafi's forces, including over 10 tons of mustard gas (estimated by the United States), could be a peril.

On Sunday, Libyan rebels had said that over 10,000 prisoners arrested by Gaddafi's government had been freed since the rebel forces took control of Tripoli, but about 50,000 prisoners were still missing. Rebel military spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani said it would be "catastrophic" if it turned out that they had already been killed after being arrested.

The rebels had on Saturday vowed fair trials for those having worked with Gaddafi, and said the reward for killing or capturing the fallen leader could be increased.

The rebels are reportedly preparing attacks on Monday to capture Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

Iranian diplomat says al-Assad must heed 'legitimate demands'

Iran's foreign minister says he backs Syria's president but that the embattled Bashar al-Assad must pay heed to his citizenry's demands amid the country's instability, an Iranian news outlet reported on Saturday.
Semi-official Iranian Students News Agency quoted

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying that Syria should be more cautious and patient in its dealings with the citizenry.
Iran has been a top ally of Syria. The foreign minister warned of the consequences of a power vacuum amid the five-month-long protests in the Arab country.
Syria's regime has come under criticism and pressure for its harsh crackdown on demonstrators and world powers have called for al-Assad to step down.
As a result of the tumult, Iran is concerned about the effects of the instability on the region and exploitation of the unrest by other countries.

"We take one single position on Middle East and North African countries' popular developments. We believe developments in regional countries came following discontent of their nations," Salehi told ISNA."Regional governments should be vigilant about foreigners' meddling in their internal affairs. Current interference of foreigners in internal affairs of some regional countries, particularly in Syria, is clear-cut to everyone."
Salehi insisted that al-Assad should be supported and that "changing the regime in Syria is unconventional and is followed by an evil purpose."
Meanwhile at least one person was killed in the suburban Damascus town of Saqba after protests broke out on Saturday, said Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of Human Rights Observatory in Syria, an activist group.
Abdul Rahman said scores of people were arrested in raids Saturday night as protesters tried to get to Damascus. He said snipers have been deployed on the rooftops and security forces have a heavy presence on streets.
Reports of state-run news agency reporters on Saturday denied there were demonstrations in Damascus-area regions, despite news reports from Arabic-language networks.
The Syrian Arab News Agency report said Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya once again proved "to be part of the conspiracy plotted against Syria through their psychological and media war strategies."

Mongolia's mining boom

Mongolia's biggest copper and gold mine is transforming an area of the Gobi Desert and a traditional way of life.

MTV video awards honor Britney Spears, Katy Perry

Pop star Lady Gaga opened the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday dressed in drag and singing her "You and I" while Britney Spears and Katy Perry took awards, but it may be Beyonce who stole the show.
The R&B singer whose hits include "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" appeared visibly pregnant as she showed up on the red carpet outside the show, posing for photographers and outlining a baby bump with her hands under her long gown.
Beyonce, who is married to rapper Jay-Z, avoided reporters waiting to ask whether she is pregnant. For years, her fans and the media have speculated whether and when the pair might have a baby.

Lady Gaga, who showed up last year at the MTV video awards in a dress made of raw meat, did an about face this year, opening the program in a man's dark suit and T-shirt as her male alter ego, Joe Calderon who gave the audience a lecture in just who Gaga is -- high heels, wild hair and crazy costumes.

"When she gets on stage, she holds nothing back," Calderon said.
Lady Gaga then launched into a version of "You and I," backed by a group of dancers and legendary rock guitarist Brian May of Queen. She danced on her piano and spewed beer from a bottle into the air in celebration.
The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) annually give out honors for the top music videos and performances to singers and bands, and each year, audiences can count on at least one surprise.
Beyonce's picture-perfect baby news will likely be this year's unexpected event.
But awards are the focus of the night and the first winner was

Spears for best pop music video "Till the World Ends."

The pop star took the stage and seemed surprised, saying she hadn't expected to win and thanking her family and fans.
Along with Spears, Foo Fighters picked up an early honor for best rock video with "Walk," and Nicki Minaj picked up the "Moonman" winner's statuette for her "Super Bass." Katy Perry and Kanye West were named best collaboration with "E.T."
Another major award still to come is best new artist, and Tyler, The Creator figures prominently in that race, too, alongside Wiz Khalifa with "Black and Yellow," Kreayshawn for "Gucci Gucci," Foster the People with "Pumped Up Kicks," and Big Sean (featuring Chris Brown) for "My Last."
British singer Adele with her chart-topping song "Rolling in the Deep" is vying for the top award, video of the year, against Katy Perry ("Firework"), Bruno Mars ("Grenade"), the Beastie Boys ("Make Some Noise") and Tyler, The Creator ("Yonkers").
Early performances included a duet by Jay-Z and Kanye West, singing a song from their new album, "Watch the Throne."
Other singers still to come include Lil Wayne, and there will be special tributes to Britney Spears and late soul singer Amy Winehouse.

Faulty policy on the Taliban


The latest cross-border attack of fugitive Taliban terrorists has mounted tensions between Islamabad and Kabul. Pakistan suffered a huge loss on Saturday when over two dozen security men were killed in another pre-dawn onslaught by 300 terrorists on seven Pakistani check posts in Chitral. There are conflicting reports about the actual death toll in the attack as the intense firing between the security forces and the terrorists continued for hours. The ISPR put it at 25 while the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Malakand division claimed killing 80 security personnel and capturing another six. Lodging a strong protest with Afghanistan’s envoy in Islamabad, Pakistan stressed that ISAF and the Afghan National Army need to take effective measures to thwart such cross-border incursions by the terrorists from their sanctuaries in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan’s military authorities have held the inadequate presence of Nato and Afghan security forces in the northeastern region of Afghanistan responsible for the attacks. It also said that despite intelligence sharing for the last one year about the large concentrations of the Taliban in the area, Nato and Afghan forces did not take any action against them.

Saturday’s attack on Pakistan’s border security personnel was the sixth deadly attempt since April 21 when 14 Frontier Corps soldiers were killed by terrorists in the Kharkari area of Dir. In four other attacks, more than 50 security men, including civilians, lost their lives. Since the US-led Nato forces withdrew from remote outposts in Kunar and Nuristan, a security vacuum had been created there. The situation required prompt and stringent security measures from Pakistan. But we failed in doing so. Before demanding the Afghan government to check the terrorists, we should question ourselves about what are we doing for our own defence. How effective are our own security measures? Instead of pointing a finger at Nato and Afghan forces, it is time that Pakistan should increase its own security and reinforce the borders. No doubt, ensuring security along the 2,430 kilometre long rugged and porous border that Pakistan shares with Afghanistan is a strenuous task; however, extraordinary situations also entail extraordinary efforts.

Our government and the military authorities should also not buy the TTP’s denial regarding the involvement of the Afghan Taliban in their cross-border raids. It is evident that the Taliban, who had fled from Swat, Dir and Bajaur during the military offensives have taken refuge in the bordering provinces of Kunar and Nuristan and organised themselves with the help of the Afghan Taliban. In collusion with each other, they plan, attack and kill not only Pakistani troops deployed at isolated border checkposts but also the innocent villagers living nearby. We should come out of the fallacy that surrounds the ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’ notion. There is no such division. The Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan are one and the same, bent upon carrying on their terrorist activities with impunity. The presence of Taliban sympathisers in both our parliament and the military ranks is not a secret. Our military has been nourishing the Taliban, including the Haqqani network, as its strategic assets since decades. Despite suffering massive human and property losses, our military still seems reluctant in taking action against its Afghan proxies. We have been repeating in this space that these jihadi outfits have to be disbanded once and for all. We need to be for our own survival. Protests to the Afghan government for the menace of terrorism, which we ourselves have inflicted upon us, would not serve any purpose until we change our policy and stop supporting these terror outfits.

Hoti condemns militants' attack on Pak sovereignty

The Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti while denouncing the brazen attacks of Afghan militants on check posts in Chitral termed these cowardice attacks an open aggression on country's solidarity.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, the Chief Minister slammed the brutal aggression of militants from neighboring Afghanistan and stressed upon NATO forces to take concerted steps on their part to stop these nefarious activities in future.

The Chief Minister said that we did not allow any one to use our soil for any kind of activities and brutalities of killing innocent people and expect the same from others.

The Chief Minister expressed the hope that in future such hostilities would not take place and the people controlling the power on the other side would keep a vigilant eye to prevent these unwanted incidents.

The Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti made it clear that our government would not allow any one to interfere in country's solidarity and autonomy. Ameer Haider Khan Hoti was of the view that regrouping of the militants in Kunar and Noristan provinces of Afghanistan is alarming for Pakistan, therefore, he urged upon the Afghan government and NATO forces to devise a comprehensive plan to stop such dangerous alliances for ensuring peace and harmony in the region.

He said such activities would not only endanger the peace and harmony in the region but also affects the cordial relations between two Muslim neighboring countries - Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Chief Minister expressed his grief over loss of precious lives in these subversive attacks and reaffirmed his vow that sacrifices of our valiant people would not let go waste and these hostilities would be prevented at all cost.

Mirza’s bombshells


Maverick PPP leader Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, a close aide and friend of President Asif Ali Zardari, has opened up a can of worms which have been described by some as bombshells and others as mini nukes. He has resigned not only from the Sindh government and the Sindh Assembly but also from his position in the PPP. His words have thrown the already complex Karachi situation into a state of greater flux and uncertainty. In his 100 minutes of live TV harangue on Sunday, he levelled serious charges on not only the MQM but also the interior minister and, by implication, the entire PPP government. The countless questions raised by his press talk and resignation will certainly make life impossibly difficult for his own party as well as its opponents. Mirza’s outbursts were initially dismissed as an angry man’s cry of anguish, but the swiftness with which the Sindh government accepted his resignation, and his claim that he had discussed the entire situation with President Zardari two days ago and had also informed his aging father a day earlier, indicate that the event was thoughtfully considered and properly planned. The immediate cause of Mirza’s wrath was considered to be the Rangers operation in Lyari — a PPP stronghold in Karachi. Mirza hardly mentioned the operation during his talk, but indirectly criticised it when questioned. His body language and the confidence he expressed in President Zardari showed that the PPP leadership might have given him a tacit nod to go ahead.

What happens now is unclear. Mirza, who said he was ready to share each and every ‘secret document’ with the media, has unmistakably accused the Sindh government of complicity in serious crimes he says have been committed by the MQM, which he called a terrorist organisation. He swore on the Holy Quran that MQM chief Altaf Hussain spoke of the breakup of Pakistan at the behest of the Americans, a claim which many will find impossible to digest. But in a way Mirza has strengthened the hands of President Zardari in his ongoing political bargaining with and against the MQM. Mirza has also made the task of the Supreme Court, which begins hearings on Karachi today, a bit more difficult. The SC now will have to call Mirza as a witness, not just as a former Sindh home minister, but also for him to explain and corroborate the serious charges he has made on solemn oath. He has put the MQM chief on the spot; Altaf Hussain will have to explain his own position and tell the nation what he thinks and will do about the former Sindh minister’s grave accusations of his party’s involvement in the murders of MQM’s Imran Farooq and journalist Wali Khan Babar, and about the allegations of corruption against ministers belonging to the MQM.

Interior Minster Rehman Malik will have to prove — harder perhaps than he appeared to be doing in his press talk following Mirza’s frontal attack — that he is not a liar. President Zardari too will have to justify the continued role he has assigned to Malik in handling the MQM and the Karachi situation. If the MQM reacts violently, bringing Karachi again to a halt, Mirza again will have to share the blame. Whatever the outcome, the maverick Mirza has brought the simmering political intrigues and conflicts between the PPP, the MQM and others into the open. If he is not reprimanded by his party leadership, the impression of complicity and the whole drama being part of the PPP and Zardari strategy would gain strength. Politics in Sindh, Karachi in particular, may not remain the same after the Mirza bombshells.

Punjab Police failed to trace out the abducted Shahbaz Taseer

Having failed to trace out the abducted Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, police have broadened the investigation scope to recover the abductee.In this regard the police have included Taseer Company’s shareholders in investigation to find out possibility of any link of kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer with business deal if there was any.In the backdrop of the circumstances Shahbaz Taseer’s abduction has gained more importance as some months earlier his father late Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his security guard for his controversial statement regarding blasphemy law. Most people still believe that the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer was in continuation of same issue and the kidnappers can bargain to get release ofMumtaz Qadiri but no group has yet claimed that responsibility neither contacted the family or authorities for their demands.The police was investigating the case from various angles to track down the abductors. In this connection, investigators are trying to figure out the nature of Taseer’s relations with his relatives, business partners and rivals.Sources said that Inspector General Punjab Police (IGP), Capital City Police officer (CCPO) along with other officers personally visited various areas of Lahore and met people to get any clue behind the abduction.It should be mentioned that Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from Gulberg area of the capital city Friday, Aug 26, by four unidentified gunmen. The police soon after the kidnapping incident placed strict cordoned off in the area and raided various areas of the city for the recovery of Shahabz Taseer but could not succeed.On the other hand abduction of Shahbaz Taseer has resulted in rifts between political parties and gave rise to new blame game.

The Libyan blues


With the capture of the last army base in the capital city Tripoli by the rebels, the horrible 41-year-long tyranny of Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi may have at long last kissed its destined sunset. But this may not be an end to the terrible travails of the long-suffering Libyan people. They indeed are now in harder and testing times. The Arab Spring that had erupted suddenly like a tidal wave and threatened to sweep out each and every entrenched despotic rule all over the region has already lost much of its steam and direction. Although still shaky, the nervousness that convulsed dreadfully-fortified autocracies, monarchies and sheikhdoms has perceptibly dissipated considerably. The tide too has visibly waned a lot.Libya nonetheless it has left in shatters, a deeply fractured polity. The insurrection against the Libyan tyrant was not as mass-based as were the popular revolts against despots Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. They did have smallish privileged pockets of loyalties. But the street was wholly up in arms against them. In Libya, the rebellion had its main base in the east while the west was largely lukewarm, if not outright with the autocrat. His autocracy’s demise has thus left the North African Arab state with a sharpened east-west divide and heightened tribal antipathies. To piece together this broken polity, a formidable leader of national stature is direly needed. But that kind of a figure is not yet in sight. The National Transitional Council, which in fact is a conglomeration of the proxies hatched up by the NATO community, has no charismatic personality on it to undertake this onerous task of national reconciliation. In reality, it is mostly a collection of imported people and domestic defectors, many tainted with long association with the autocrat’s tyrannical dispensation. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, heading this council, himself was part of his regime. Jalil in fact was very much part of his brutal justice system, holding as he was the portfolio of justice before defection. Furthermore, the inexplicable murder of Abdel Fattah Younes, the military commander of the rebel forces last month bespeaks of internecine division within the council’s ranks. Most importantly, this top command structure is bereft of the rebels who originally threw the challenge to Qaddafi and stirred up the revolt to dislodge him. Only two of those pioneers were taken in. But they statedly have walked out of the council, expressing distrust in its principal leaders and disgust with their functioning. As such, the council is made up of the proxies that the NATO powers have propped up to lead the not-so-veiled NATO-driven campaign for the autocrat’s ouster. Still, the council stands a chance, even if bleak, to smoothen the ruffles in the shattered Libyan polity if the outside powers hold back and give it a free hand to reach out to the recalcitrant for a grand national reconciliation. Indeed, poking of foreign noses would be a great impediment to this difficult task. Although it would be unfair to belittle the courage of the Libyan rebels who risked their lives with an armed challenge to the autocrat’s tyrannical rule, the fact nevertheless stands this battle has in reality been fought between the Qaddafi forces and the NATO militaries. It is not just the NATO air action that crippled and threw his military largely out of the battlefield. Believably, the NATO advisors have played a crucial part in the invasion of the government forces and military installations by the Libyan rebels. Indeed, for the massive foreign military involvement in the Libyan revolt, this insurrection has lost much of its shine even on the Arab street. At home, it has left incurable scars on the western Libyans’ psyche. Though the NATO commanders and their conformist western media maintained throughout that their air assaults took out only military targets, causing no collateral damage whatsoever, such implausible assertions could only be taken with a big, big pinch of salt.Human beings, despite all the expertise and technological advancements, are still to fabricate a weapon so discreet that it would hit only the soldiers, not the civilians. The civilians did die in the NATO assaults, and not just few but very many. And while the rebels are grateful to their NATO helpers, the victims of their assaults are understandably hateful of them. Given this, any visible foreigners’ active role in their national tasks will incense very many Libyans and may ultimately even plunge them in a wholly undesirable internal conflagration, even a civil war. And a horrific eventuality it would be, as Libya is presently awash with weapons pilfered freely and in abundance from the arsenals of the defeated government forces. Hence, the outsiders must curb their thirst for the Libyan oil for the time being and let the Libyans alone to bring about their urgently-needed grand national reconstruction for their nation’s and the country’s good. They can have all the Libyan oil thereafter. After all, the Libyans have to sell it to raise the cash for their ravaged country’s rebuilding.

Major split expected in PML-N Sindh

A big split is expected in the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Sindh as Syed Ghous Ali Shah and his supporters did not participate in any of the activities of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif while in Karachi. Shah started talks with the PML-Q and a new party might formed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
During his visit, Shahbaz met senior journalists, writers, intellectuals members of the business community, and condoled with the relatives of those party workers who had fallen prey to targeted killings. In these all activities, the most senior most leader of the PML-N, Shah and his group remained absent. Even the PML-N womens wing was out of the scene.
However, Shah’s opponent group remained very active during Shahbaz’s visit.The gravity of the issue was felt when during a press conference, Shahbaz was asked about the PML-N leadership’s differences with its Sindh chapter. In response, the chief minister told the questioner that it needed to be ascertained “who has put the question in your mouth”.
Shah and his supporters developed serious differences with the party leadership when he was made senior vice president of the party but was not made the PML-N Sindh president.
Sources said the PML-N leadership decided not to listen to Shah.
Insiders said Shah had indirectly started negotiations with Qureshi as well had contacted the PML-Q leadership.
If the negotiations remain successful, a large number of PML-N Sindh members might leave the party.

Maoist picked as Nepal’s prime minister

The deeply fractured Parliament of Nepal elected a Maoist as the country’s new prime minister yesterday, after weeks of efforts to form a national unity coalition proved fruitless.

The new prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, is a senior leader and intellectual force in the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The party gave up armed rebellion in a 2006 peace accord and unexpectedly won the most seats, though not an outright majority, in the 2008 legislative elections.

Bhattarai faces the same thorny problems that made previous governments of Nepal short-lived: how to reintegrate the 19,000 former fighters of the Maoist rebellion back into civilian society or the army, and how to balance power in a permanent new constitution.

“This is the last opportunity,’’ Bhattarai, 57, told the Parliament. “I am determined to complete the peace process and constitution drafting.’’

It will be an uphill task. The other two major parties - the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) - remain in opposition, and to win, Bhattarai needed support from smaller parties, which could withdraw at any time. Though seen as the No. 2 Maoist leader after the chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Bhattarai is not universally supported in his own party.

The Maoists have struggled to turn their plurality into a stable coalition government. Three successive prime ministers have resigned after a few months in office, followed by weeks of deadlock over a successor. The latest, Jhalanath Khanal of the Communist Party, was elected in February and stepped down Aug. 14.

Bhattarai was one of the central negotiators of the November 2006 accord that ended the country’s bloody 10-year insurrection, and he won praise as finance minister in the first elected Maoist government. He has a reputation for integrity and for a modest lifestyle that is unusual among top Nepalese politicians.

He said yesterday that despite the failure to organize a national unity government, he would continue to try to garner agreement from the main opposition parties for measures to complete the peace process.

Dick Cheney taking 'cheap shots' in book

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday dismissed as "cheap shots" the criticism leveled at him and others in Vice President Dick Cheney's memoir.
It was the latest volley in a clash that stretches back to their first years in the George W. Bush administration.
Powell went so far as to say that if Cheney's staff and others in Bush's White House had been as forthcoming as the State Department in the case involving CIA operative Valerie Plame, the indictment and conviction of Cheney's friend and former chief of staff never would have happened.
Powell made the remarks Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" ahead of the Tuesday release of Cheney's book, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir." Cheney said in an earlier NBC interview that the book would cause "heads to explode" in Washington, a description Powell said he expected from a supermarket tabloid and not a former vice president.
"My head isn't exploding. I haven't noticed any other heads exploding in Washington," Powell said. "From what I've read in the newspapers and seen on television it's essentially a rehash of events of seven or eight years ago."
Cheney and Powell had numerous disagreements in the administration, particularly over policy toward Iraq and the run-up to the 2003 invasion by U.S.-led forces. Still, Powell termed "nonsense" Cheney's description of how Powell went outside with his criticism of administration policies.
Powell also suggested that Cheney wrongly took credit for Powell's resignation from the State Department in 2004; Powell said he had always planned to serve only four years. He labeled as "almost condescending" the tone of Cheney's criticism of Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded him as secretary of state.
"Mr. Cheney has had a long and distinguished career and I hope in his book that's what he will focus on, not these cheap shots that he's taking at me and other members of the administration who served to the best of our ability for President Bush," Powell said.
On the Plame matter, Powell said Cheney tries to "lay it all off" on Powell and Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state under Powell.
Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI during its investigation into who leaked to the news media that Plame, the wife of a former ambassador critical of the Bush administration, worked for the CIA.
Powell said that when Armitage realized he was the anonymous source cited by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in an article that revealed Plame's CIA connection, Armitage contacted Powell and they spoke to the Justice Department and the FBI for the probe ordered by Bush.
"If the White House and the operatives in the White House — on Mr. Cheney's staff and elsewhere in the White House — had been as forthcoming with the FBI as Mr. Armitage was, this problem would not have reached the dimensions that it reached," Powell said.
Instead, Powell said, the FBI continued for two more months trying to find out what had happened in the White House and that a special counsel ended up conducting a two-year probe of what he called a "mess."

9/11:Obama asks what service will you do to remember

U.S. Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts

It would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests. But the arrival of victorious rebels on the shores of Tripoli last week gave President Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.Administration officials say that even though the NATO intervention in Libya, emphasizing airstrikes to protect civilians, cannot be applied uniformly in other hotspots like Syria, the conflict may, in some important ways, become a model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened.

“We’ve resisted the notion of a doctrine, because we don’t think you can impose one model on very different countries; that gets you into trouble and can lead you to intervene in places that you shouldn’t,” said Ben Rhodes, the director for strategic communications at the National Security Council.

Even so, he said, the Libya action helped to establish two principles for when the United States could apply military force to advance its diplomatic interests even though its national security is not threatened directly.

Mr. Obama laid out those principles on March 28, when he gave his only big address on the Libya conflict, in a speech at George Washington University that in many ways established the principles of the Obama doctrine.

During that speech, Mr. Obama said that America had the responsibility to stop what he characterized as a looming genocide in the Libyan city of Benghazi (Principle 1). But at the same time, he said, when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened but where action can be justified — in the case of genocide, say — the United States will act only on the condition that it is not acting alone (Principle 2).

And so, with Libya, the United States used its might — providing crucial cruise missiles, aircraft, bombs, intelligence and even military personnel — but it did so as part of the larger NATO coalition, led by the French and the British and including Arab nations.

And it did so only after a United Nations Security Council resolution authorized the kind of multilateral approach that had been viewed with disdain by Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

In fact, American officials argued, the Libya strategy worked in large part because it was perceived as an international effort against a brutal dictator and “not a U.S. go-it-alone approach,” as one senior administration official put it.

“ ‘Made only in the U.S.A.’ would have risked it becoming Qaddafi versus the U.S.A.,” the official said.

But any speculation that the Libya model could be transferrable to the next obvious place, Syria, where the United States and its European allies have called for President Bashar al-Assad to leave, might be a bit hasty.

For now at least, the administration and its allies in the Libya action have stopped far short of threatening military force in Syria. Still, the officials argue that creating the broadest possible diplomatic pressure — what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week called an “international chorus of condemnation” — could ultimately have an effect and, if Mr. Assad continues his violent crackdown on dissenters, lay the foundation for more aggressive action.

“How much we translate to Syria remains to be seen,” the senior official said, citing differences among the many Arab nations experiencing upheaval. “The Syrian opposition doesn’t want foreign military forces but do want more countries to cut off trade with the regime and break with it politically.”

Robert Malley, head analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, said a military intervention in Syria could present a host of challenges that the United States and its allies did not face against Libya.

“What distinguishes Syria from Libya is there is neither regional nor international consensus on Syria,” Mr. Malley said. “There’s no specific area of the country to come in and defend. The opposition in Syria doesn’t hold any territory. And Syria has many ways it could retaliate to make life difficult.”
Damascus has allies that Libya and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi did not. Iran and the militant Islamic groups Hamas and Hezbollah are allied with Syria and capable of inflicting damage on the United States and its satellite interests — Israel, in particular. In fact, Syria, located in the heart of the tumultuous Arab-Israeli conflict zone, can wreak havoc on Israeli interests.

Syria also shares a border with Iraq and could, if it chose, look for ways to retaliate against the remaining American troops and American interests there, some foreign policy experts say. Beyond that, there is a very real worry that a Syria without Mr. Assad, whose family has governed the country for more than 40 years, would come apart at the seams, degenerating into the kind of sectarian warfare that characterized Iraq after the American invasion there ousted Saddam Hussein.

So far, with the possible exception of Turkey, no other countries have shown any interest in a military intervention in Syria, despite repeated reports of Mr. Assad’s brutal crackdown on those advocating for democracy there. Even as the Obama administration, alongside France, Britain and Germany, was demanding a week ago that Mr. Assad step down, there has been no talk of trying to establish a no-fly or no-drive zone in Syria, as was done in Libya.

“People will be much more cautious about Syria,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, chief executive of the consulting firm Oxford Analytica. “There’s more ambivalence about what’s worse, a bloody Assad staying in place, or the bloody aftermath of Assad being toppled.”

But the very fact that the administration has joined with the same allies that it banded with on Libya to call for Mr. Assad to go and to impose penalties on his regime could take the United States one step closer to applying the Libya model toward Syria. While military intervention in Syria is highly unlikely, administration officials say that the coordinated approach to calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster and imposing financial penalties on the Syrian government show that they are already applying the Obama doctrine there.

And things could always escalate. “There’s no appetite to engage in military action in Syria,” Mr. Malley of the International Crisis Group said. But, he added, “If 30,000 people were killed there, that would be a different story.”

U.S.A. The Nation’s Cruelest Immigration Law


The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members “wisdom and discernment” to do what is right. “Not what’s right in their own eyes,” he said, “but what’s right according to your word.” Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders — an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop — have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.

It effectively makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with federal registration laws that are largely obsolete. It nullifies any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant. It requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally.

The new regime does not spare American citizens. Businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants will lose their licenses. Public school officials will be required to determine students’ immigration status and report back to the state. Anyone knowingly “concealing, harboring or shielding” an illegal immigrant could be charged with a crime, say for renting someone an apartment or driving her to church or the doctor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department have also sued, calling the law an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government’s authority to write and enforce immigration laws. The A.C.L.U. warns that the law would trample people’s fundamental rights to speak and travel freely, effectively deny children the chance to go to school and expose people to harassment and racial profiling.

These arguments have been made before, in opposition to similar, if less sweeping, laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. What is remarkable in Alabama is the separate lawsuit by the four church leaders, who say the law violates their religious freedoms to perform acts of charity without regard to the immigration status of those they minister to or help.

“The law,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in The Times, “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.”

You’d think that any state would think twice before embracing a law that so vividly brings to mind the Fugitive Slave Act, the brutal legal and law-enforcement apparatus of the Jim Crow era, and the civil-rights struggle led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But waves of anti-immigrant hostility have made many in this country forget who and what we are.

Congress was once on the brink of an ambitious bipartisan reform that would have enabled millions of immigrants stranded by the failed immigration system to get right with the law. This sensible policy has been abandoned. We hope the church leaders can waken their fellow Alabamans to the moral damage done when forgiveness and justice are so ruthlessly denied. We hope Washington and the rest of the country will also listen.

U.S.A. The Nation’s Cruelest Immigration Law