Wednesday, October 19, 2011

President Obama Doesn’t Like His Daughters Watching ‘The Kardashians’

They may be the first family of reality TV, but not everyone is interested in

“Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Especially…the patriarch of the First Family.

Michelle Obama reveals that her husband isn’t too keen on the couple’s two daughters watching the E! reality show.

“Barack really thinks some of the Kardashian – when they watch that stuff – he doesn’t like that as much,” she said, “but I sort of feel like if we’re talking about it, and I’m more concerned with how they take it in – what did you learn when you watched that. And if they’re learning the right lessons, like, that was crazy, then I’m like, okay.”

The First Lady had been asked about her children’s viewing habits during a roundtable interview with

She explained that Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, are not allowed to watch TV or be on the computer (unless it’s for school) during the week but that she and the girls check out some programs together on the weekends … and “The Kardashians” airs on Sunday nights on E!, which she feels play out like precautionary tales.

“They’re terrific girls, they’re poised and they’re kind and they’re curious,” Obama said, adding with a laugh, “And like any mother, I am just hoping that I don’t mess them up.”

Nawaz Sharif and his Family Exposed

Can bring Nawaz corruption cases in limelight: Malik

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Wednesday that he could bring forward several corruption cases of Nawaz Sharif if the party allowed him, Geo News reported.

Malik was speaking with party workers and sent a message to the PML-N chief "criticise but fix your language."

Malik also accused the PML-N-led Punjab government of using fake Dengue sprays adding that Nawaz Sharif had no room to criticise the PPP.

The Interior Minister added that slogans could not remove the PPP government because the nation loved Bhutto, Benazir and Asif Ali Zardari.

Yemeni Nobel winner at UN urges Saleh to step down

Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman joined about 100 protesters Tuesday outside the United Nations to call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.

"We came here to tell that Ali Abdullah Saleh and (Syrian leader) Bashar al-Assad are both criminals and they have to be held accountable and prosecuted," Karma said.

"People are living on sidewalks and are being killed everyday... All because they asked for democracy and justice.

"These regimes are a danger to international security," she added, speaking through a translator.

Karman, who shared the 2011 Nobel prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and "peace warrior" Leymah Gbowee also from Liberia, has called on the United Nations to act immediately to halt the Yemeni government's crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

"As a Yemeni leader, as a Nobel Prize winner, as a leader of the Arab Spring, I came here to tell them to stand up for these rights," Karman said.

"We're calling on them to treat the revolutions in Yemen and Syria just like they did in Libya.

"I feel shamed that tonight I will be sleeping in a hotel and my people will be sleeping in the streets."

She plans to hand a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday, and she has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the actions of the Yemeni government.

Karman and tens of thousands of other pro-democracy activists have camped out in Sanaa's Change Square for months, marching against Saleh despite a violent crackdown by government troops that has killed hundreds since the mass protest movement began in late January.

At least seven protesters were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday as gunmen loyal to Saleh opened fire on demonstrators in the Yemeni capital, medics and the opposition said.

It was the third time in four days that demonstrators had attempted to march from their base in Change Square on loyalist-held areas of the capital to be met by deadly gunfire.

Despite months of protests and international pressure, Saleh has refused to end his 33-year rule and step down despite a plan drawn up by the Gulf monarchies for a peaceful transfer of power.

At least 861 people have been killed and 25,000 wounded since protests first erupted, according to a letter from Yemen's youth movement sent to the United Nations earlier this month.

Massive rally in Syria to support president

Syrian state television is showing tens of thousands rallying in a major city in a demonstration of support for the country's embattled President Bashar Assad.

The pro-regime gathering in Aleppo comes a week after a similar rally in the capital, Damascus.

Damascus and Aleppo are the largest cities in Syria and economic powerhouses. The regime is counting on their support to halt the momentum of a 7-month-old uprising.

Also Wednesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government gunmen killed two people in the restive city of Homs.

The U.N. says more than 3,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on the uprising and international pressure is building on Assad to step down.

Pakistan warns US over unilateral military action

Pakistan's army chief Ashfaq Kayani

has warned the US that it will have to think "10 times" before taking any unilateral action in North Waziristan.

He said that the US should focus on stabilising Afghanistan instead of pushing Pakistan to attack militant groups in the crucial border region.

Washington has for many years urged Islamabad to deal with militants in the area, especially the Haqqani network.

It has been blamed for a series of recent attacks in Afghanistan.

"If someone convinced me that all problems will be solved by taking action in North Waziristan, I'd do it tomorrow," a parliamentarian who attended a briefing given by Gen Kayani quoted him as saying.

"If we need to take action, we will do it on our schedule and according to our capacity."

Gen Kayani told the closed-door parliamentary defence committee meeting in Rawalpindi that any withdrawal of American assistance would not affect Pakistan's defence capabilities.

'Very focused'

The Haqqani network - believed to be linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda - is
accused of carrying out last month's 19-hour siege of the US embassy in Kabul.
Some reports say that during the briefing Gen Kayani defended Pakistani contacts with the group as "useful" for intelligence gathering.

The verbal and military fight waged by the US against the network has intensified in recent months and is the main cause of tension between the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

US national security adviser Thomas E Donilon is reported to have told Gen Kayani at a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia earlier this month that Pakistan must either kill the Haqqani leadership, help the US to kill them or persuade them to join a peaceful, democratic Afghan government.

In September outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm Mike Mullen called the Haqqanis a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani intelligence agency, accusing it of directly supporting the militants who had mounted the attack on the US embassy.

But Pakistan has been reluctant to give in to US pressure on the issue. Last month Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that his country "will not bow to US pressure" on fighting militancy.

A senior official in Afghanistan said on Tuesday that the coalition was "very focused" now on the Haqqani network. He said that the Haqqani network operates mainly in Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces, but there has been a significant increase in its activities in Wardak and Logar provinces.

Afghan and Nato officials argue that Pakistan's reluctance to confront the Haqqani network has forced them to increase missile strikes against them in their safe haven of North Waziristan.

For months, the US has been targeting militants, including members of the Haqqani group, in Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghan border - some in the US Congress are now calling for it to go beyond drone strikes.

Pakistan's military was deeply angered and humiliated when US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in a secret raid on Pakistani soil in May.

While Pakistan has long denied supporting the Haqqani group, BBC correspondents say it has a decades-old policy of pursuing foreign policy objectives through alliances with militants.

US general: New offensive under way in Afghanistan

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan says the international coalition has unleashed a new offensive against one of the country's most lethal militant networks and will ramp up operations next year along the Pakistan border to better secure the Afghan capital before the U.S. drawdown gathers steam.

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Marine Gen. John Allen said the "high-intensity" operation is focused on the Haqqani group, a militant network affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Allen also says the transfer of security to Afghan forces is going to move faster than initially planned.

And he says roughly one-third of the 10,000 U.S. troops President Barack Obama ordered withdrawn from Afghanistan this year will come from combat units.

US forces 'massing on Afghanistan-Pakistan border'

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.
Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan's armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated dramatically in recent months as American officials increased pressure on Pakistan to launch an offensive against the Haqqani Network, which mounts attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan from bases in North Waziristan.
Islamabad has fiercely resisted American pressure, claiming its forces are overstretched and stating its priority is to fight Taliban factions which have declared war on Pakistan, rather than those, like the Haqqanis, who focus on cross-border attacks on Nato forces.
Last month Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently accused Pakistan's ISI intelligence service of plotting the attack on the US embassy in Kabul with Haqqani network fighters and claimed the militant group was a "veritable arm" of the ISI.
Islamabad and Washington have traded accusations since then, but the massing of American troops on the Afghan border appears to suggest some understanding may have been reached.
According to Pakistan Army sources, the U.S had informed Islamabad about the planned build-up and described it as part of a "cordon and search operation" in which Haqqani Network fighters will be pushed over the Afghan border from North Waziristan and then "encircled, arrested or killed" by American forces lying in wait.A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul declined to comment on the build-up. A spokesman for the Pakistan Army said it had not been informed about the number of American troops on the border but it was reported that American and Afghan troops had established curfews in eastern Khost province, conducted house to house searches, established checkpoints and occupied hilltops close to Ghulam Khan on the Pakistan side of the border.
The Haqqani Network and militant allies have increased in strength on both sides of the border over the last two years and have been blamed for a summer increase in cross-border raids on Nato positions in eastern Afghanistan.

Attack in Khyber


The dastardly ambush by the militants in Khyber Agency is yet another instance of the TTP continuing on its deadly course of destabilizing Pakistan. Those who had hoped that with Islamabad still declining to undertake military operation in North Waziristan, insurgency and attacks inside Pakistan would come to an end have thus been proved wrong. Coming as it does amidst reports of Pakistani agencies trying to deradicalise groups of local terrorists, the ambush is all the more disturbing. Taliban networks, including the most lethal Hakimullah Mehsud group, which is supposedly behind the attack, have been camping for long in North Waziristan. What is the justification for not taking action in the agency if attacks of the sort that killed FC soldiers continue to take place?

Having said this, there is a need on the part of the US also to give proper weight to Pakistan’s constraints. What one has seen happening during the last nine months indicates this is not being done. The US policymakers continue to ignore the ground realities in the region. Washington has failed to realise that lack of cooperation between the US and Pakistan can only facilitate the terrorists. By putting on hold the promised civilian and military aid, Washington has forced Pakistan to fight militancy through its own meager resources. Islamabad has thus been left with no alternative other than limiting its targets instead of conducting an all-out operation against terrorists of all brands. This has also led to the thinking among powerful circles that there is a need to open talks with domestic terrorist groups.

A Pentagon spokesman has talked about an increase in attacks from inside Pakistan this summer. Pakistan is facing a similar situation. During the last few months raids by militants operating from Afghanistan have increased manifolds. About 100 members of Pakistan’s security forces have been killed in these incidents. Mullah Fazlullah is currently organising attacks from inside Afghanistan. ISAF has not taken action against these groups. This underlines that unless the two countries urgently reach an understanding, giving due consideration to the ground realities and displaying the much needed flexibility, there will be peace neither in Afghanistan nor Pakistan.

Kohat commissioner tells Afghan refugees to follow law

Kohat Commissioner Sahibzada Muhammad Anis on Tuesday asked the Afghan refugees in Pakistan to follow the state law and stay away from illegal activities, and warned of strict action against violators of the law. He was speaking at a high-level meeting in his office, attended by senior representatives from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Police department, commissioner and additional commissioner for Afghan refugees, and district coordination officers of Karak, Kohat and Hangu.
The Kohat commissioner said the authorities were taking steps to ensure a peaceful living for the refugees in Pakistan, particularly in Kohat Division. He asked them to follow the country’s code of conduct and maintain law and order in their areas. He asked the UNHCR to provide basic amenities to the refugees. He also asked the police to give legal cover to Afghans who possessed identity cards for refugees issued by Pakistan. Regarding reports that some Afghan refugees had destroyed their identity cards, he said warned the refugees involved in the practice and told police to take action against those found guilty.

Rehman Malik's disclosures

Editorial:The News

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Monday that Shahbaz Taseer, son of the murdered governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, was alive and that his kidnappers were holding him in a place close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He went on to say something even more startling – that information had been received about a fortnight ago that Al-Qaeda and the TTP were planning on kidnapping the son of President Zardari and chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He offered no supporting evidence for either claim and given his propensity for what might charitably be called a slackness of tongue, we are unable to be sure of the veracity of either statement.

It is unlikely that Malik deliberately would have exacerbated the already difficult position of Shahbaz Taseer, but by disclosing his knowledge of Taseer’s whereabouts he may have alarmed his abductors. Similarly, if there really was a plot to kidnap Bilawal Bhutto Zardari then those who were doing the plotting are now alerted to the possibility of their actions being under surveillance. There are times when secrets, genuinely and for good reason, have to be kept. Disclosure may harm the chances of release or jeopardise negotiations in the case of Taseer; and in the case of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari perhaps expose an intelligence asset in their company or a leak in their communications. Either way, offering statements like this, completely unsupported, does nothing for the credibility of the interior minister. Ministers need to speak and act with discretion, be guarded and circumspect in their unscripted moments and mindful of their broader responsibilities.

‘Banned organisations PML-N’s militant wing’

MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi responded to Nawaz Sharif and said banned organisations were the militant wing of the PML-N.

Speaking to Geo News Rizvi said he was astonished over Sharif’s statement and said terrorism in Pakistan started during the era of General Zia.

Rizvi added that the MQM did not need clearance from anyone and it would be the PML-N who would be losing support in Punjab in the near future due to its affiliations with banned organisations.

PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that terrorism in Pakistan started when the MQM entered politics.

Balochistan is facing nutritional emergency

A comprehensive survey of the country’s nutritional status reveals a grim picture, particularly for Balochistan where the prevalence of chronic malnutrition is 52.2 per cent and maternal anemia is 47.3 per cent.

Similarly, the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children is 16.1 per cent, particularly alarming considering the World Health Organisation guidelines which term anything above 15 per cent as a ‘state of emergency.’

To tackle the situation, the Health Department of Balochistan convened a one day dissemination ceremony of the survey’s findings. The ceremony took place on Tuesday at the Sikandar Jamali Auditorium and was chaired by Chief Secretary of the province.

The secretaries of Food, Education, Agriculture, Population Welfare department and other stack holders also participated in the meeting.

Balochistan’s government will endorse the findings of the survey and will devise an integrated nutrition strategy with the help of all concerned departmemts, NGOs and stake holders to address the crisis immediately.

CID report on Hazaras’ killing submitted in court

The advocate general submitted before a bench of the Balochistan High Court on Tuesday a report of the Crimes Investigation Department (CID) which stated that an important clue had been found in the Mastung massacre, but said that details could not be disclosed because that would affect further investigation.

Twenty-nine members of the Shia Hazara community were killed by gunmen near Mastung on Sept 20.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Abdul Qadir Mengal accepted the counsel’s request that due to sensitivity of the matter the report be kept under wraps.

A report prepared by the Frontier Corps was also submitted which said the Levies Force did not coordinate with them in the investigation.

The court noted that although the government had restored the Levies Force, it was not properly trained to combat terrorism and other crimes and directed the government to take steps to improve the force’s performance.

The court also called for measures aimed at better coordination among different law-enforcement agencies to stop terrorist incidents and other heinous crimes. The hearing was adjourned till Nov 23.

Peace conference in Quetta soon

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday said the government would call a peace conference of local and foreign religious scholars in Quetta to control violence caused by sectarianism.

“Religious scholars and other stakeholders from different walks of life from across the country and abroad will be invited to attend the peace conference in Quetta to end sectarian hatred and violence,” Mr Malik said.

He was talking to media at the Sarawan House Quetta after meeting with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Haji Lashkari Raisani.

The minister said that some extremist elements were involved in activities to damage peace in Balochistan and added that the government would utilise all the resources available to it to resolve the province’s law and order issues.

“We will not allow anti-peace elements to implement their nefarious designs,” he said.

Referring to the missing persons issue, he said the total number of missing persons hailing from Balochistan was 54 and not 6,000.

“I have discussed the missing persons issue with Lashkari Raisani and I will inform President Asif Ali Zardari about the reservations of Raisani in this regard,” he said, adding that both federal and provincial governments had been making efforts to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

He added that the commission set up on the missing persons issue was active and discharging its services effectively. He said that the PPP-led government was aware of Balochistan’s conditions and wanted to put the province on the track of progress and prosperity.

“Balochistan province is rich in mines and minerals and the government will utilise the wealth of natural resources for the development of the province,” Mr Malik pledged.

On this occasion, Mr Raisani said that Balochistan was a victim of an international great game. He emphasised the need to ensure the recovery of missing persons. He said that the interior minister had assured him that he would take up the issue with relevant authorities. “The interior minister has assured me that the federal government would make efforts to bring angry Baloch youth into mainstream,” he said.

Slavery: A 21st Century Evil

There are an estimated 1.4 million sex slaves in the world today and international trafficking is on the rise.
Slavery: A 21st Century Evil .These women do not voluntarily enter prostitution, but have been forced under the threat of violence to have sex with men who pay their 'owners'.

Sex slavery is present in every country of the world.

In some cases, categorised as 'domestic', women are sold into brothels within their own country. But international sex trafficking of women and children is on the rise.

In this episode, Al Jazeera's Rageh Omaar investigates the enslavement and trafficking of women from Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, to wealthier European countries, in particular to the red light district of Amsterdam, one of Europe's most profitable sex markets and a major international tourist attraction.

Pakhtun's status in Dubai
BY: Jehan Sher Yusufzai

Pakhtuns are famous for their tribal system and traditional culture. But this unfortunate nation has been the victim of internal and external intrigues since the British colonial period.Their land is green and fertile but without enough employment opportunities. This is because the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has never been given its due share of the developmental projects launched in Pakistan.There is no dearth of talent among the Pakhtuns, but prejudiced politicians and elite have kept the community away from development. To survive in this situation the people have spread throughout the world to earn their livelihood. The Pakhtuns have some special qualities and habits for which they are respected not only in Pakistan but throughout the entire world, but one cannot find those qualities by studying Pakhtuns working in the UAE. The complaint is not for all the Pakhtuns but is focused on those who are uneducated, hailing from the far-flung areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.I have been working in the UAE since 2005. I feel very sad to see the ever-decreasing cultural values of Pakhtuns. In the 1970s, the construction boom of the Gulf countries attracted huge manpower from the South Asian countries. To benefit from the employment opportunities a large number of jobless Pakhtuns turned to the Gulf countries especially to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.According to a rough estimate more than 500,000 Pakhtuns are currently employed in the UAE. They are engaged in different professions — about 70 per cent of them in the transport industry and the remaining 30 per cent are employed in construction companies and odd jobs.Technology has revolutionised the world and the job market demands highly qualified workforce. But the Pakhtun youth who come to the UAE do not possess the required skills. Thus they cannot compete with other expats in this much advanced job market.Another problem is that the community members have to work in a multinational environment in the UAE, but few of them know how to deal with other staff members.It has also been observed that the people working here in various companies are not into nurturing healthier relationships for their own development. As a result of their inappropriate attitude, companies do not favour Pakhtun candidates at the time of recruitment.The financial position of the community is also not good as one can see huge businesses of Indians and Arab expatriates in the UAE market, whereas Pakhtuns only know how to drive taxis.Unfortunately, a Pakhtun generally does not have a financial plan to keep a balance between his income and expenditure. He earns money but does not know how to save it. Even when he sends money to his family back home it is without any specific schedule. It has also been noted that Pakhtuns spend lavishly on unnecessary things when they go back home on leave.The economic situation in the region has made their position weak and the salary structures of the workers are not very satisfactory in today’s recessionary environment. It is said that Pakhtuns are famous for their social contacts, but when it comes to those working in the UAE, the matter is quite different. They have developed a poor social system. The famous codes of Pakhtunwali such as hospitality, respect of the elderly, helping the sick and the needy no longer exists in the community here.Their joint accommodations (called dhara in the local dialect) are ruled by jealousy and they have failed to keep the inherited community values in their life in the UAE.Those elderly members of the community who have been living here since many decades do not help those who seek jobs although they can request their bosses.The community should have welfare organisations to assist its people in time of distress like other communities have in the country.A branch of AVT Khyber TV channel exists in Dubai but unfortunately it has never concentrated on problems confronted by the community. Its anchor focuses only on showing high-rise buildings and organises music shows which attract the Pakhtun youth to Dubai but they do not know the ground realties. The anchor has never pointed out the grievances and difficulties faced by the community.It is mentioned here the purpose of my description is not to devalue Pakhtun culture, rather I want to inform the ANP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of the problems the Pakhtun community isfacing in various Arab countries, particularly in the UAE. It would be better if the local government of the province appoints a commission of experts in Peshawar to examine the job markets in these countries and then evolve a comprehensive strategy to train the youth according to the job requirements. Also, the commission should be set up a small institute in Peshawar where the new overseas workforce will get preliminary information about the countries they wish to go before leaving the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only then, they can regain their lost image, preserve their jobs and revive the traditions of Pakhtunwali. Now, with the advent of two Pashto TV channels -— the AVT Khyber and Shamshad TV – both can play a pivotal role in restoring the centuries’ old Pakhtun culture. The programmes, especially the cultural ones which are run on these channels are extremely fruitful for our new generation. This is why the channels are becoming popular among the Pakhtuns by leaps and bounds. I would like to remind their distinguished anchors to initiate such programmes which could create awareness among the expatriate Pakhtuns to cope with the challenges faced by them in the Arab Gulf countries.To make a long story short, lack of modern education, English language proficiency, latest job skills, rude attitude and ineptness at social interaction and dealings are the impediments being faced by Pakhtuns not only in the UAE but throughout the Mideast.

PPP remembers Karsaz martyrs

The PPP remembered martyrs of Karsaaz tragedy on Tuesday, as different party cadres held functions across the country to mark the day.
In Lahore, a good number of PPP’s women activists gathered outside Governor’s House and lit candles in memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the massive bomb blast which occurred four years ago in Karachi on late Benazir Bhutto’s return from exile. President, Lahore women wing, Faiza Malik had organised the show.
PPP’s Punjab Finance Secretary, Aurangzeb Burki organised a ceremony in National Assembly constituency of NA-121 (Lahore) to mark the day. Addressing party workers on the occasion, Burki said that October 18 would be remembered as black day in country’s history. He said PPP was proud of its martyrs who sacrificed their lives for democracy. PPP’s youth wing also arranged similar events at divisional and district headquarters in connection with the day. Quran Khawani was held for the departed souls.
Addressing a gathering of youth in Lahore, President Peoples Youth, Punjab, Mian Ayyub termed the October 18 tragedy an attack on democracy, and said that party workers will not hesitate from making any sacrifice to save the country and the democratic system.

Democracy in Pakistan should work side by side with military: US

The United States believes the Pakistani government is capable of working with it on shared challenges, with the State Department expressing support for a strong democracy in the key South Asian country.

“Much of our work in Pakistan is geared towards building the kind of institutions that will strengthen Pakistani democracy,” State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said in answer to a question at the daily briefing.

“Clearly, we want to see a strong democracy emerge in Pakistan that works side by side with the military and that is to the benefit of Pakistani people moving forward,” he added.

Asked if the US had confidence in the current Pakistani government’s ability and intent to work with the United States on shared challenges, the spokesman replied: “We do believe they’re capable of it, and certainly for our part, we’re willing to work with them to address those shared challenges.” Questioned about the outcome of US Special Representative Marc Grossman’s recent visit to Islamabad, the spokesman said he has not received readout from Grossman’s trip but reaffirmed Washington’s desire to work constructively with Pakistan on dealing with shared challenges.

“I would just say that, as he (Grossman) has said multiple times, that we’re working together with Pakistan. We want to find ways that we can act jointly on our shared challenges. We continue to pursue those interests. We’re obviously as we’ve said many times, Pakistan is under enormous threat from extremist groups. We want to find ways to work constructively with them to address these challenges.” Experts say despite differences, a cooperative US-Pakistan relationship remains critical to a successful outcome of the decade-old Afghan conflic

First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks on the HealthierUS School Challenge

First Lady Michelle Obama honors schools that met the First Lady's goal to double the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year.

Study finds harsh media coverage for Obama

President Obama "has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment" of all presidential candidates over the past five months, according to a study released Monday from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Pew found that Mr. Obama was the subject of negative assessments nearly four times as often as he was the subject of positive assessments. It found he received "positive" coverage nine percent of the time, "neutral" coverage 57 percent of the time and "negative" coverage 34 percent of the time.

The study, which was conducted using a combination of "traditional media research methods [and] computer algorithms to track the level and tone of coverage," cuts against the widespread conservative claim that the "liberal media" aides Mr. Obama and other Democrats while attacking Republicans.

Pew says it looked at coverage from more than 11,500 news outlets, including local and national broadcasts, news websites and blogs.

Mr. Obama's negative coverage could be explained in part by the fact that he is "covered largely as president rather than a candidate," Pew said - and coverage of him is linked to the struggling economy.
Among the Republican presidential candidates, Pew found that Rick Perry has received the most positive coverage of all the candidates, with 32 percent positive coverage. He was followed by Sarah Palin (31 percent), Michele Bachmann (31 percent), Herman Cain (28 percent) and Mitt Romney (26 percent.) Palin, a vocal critic of the media, ultimately decided not to seek the GOP nomination.

Perry had the best ratio of any candidate, with 32 percent positive coverage to 20 percent negative coverage, a 12 percent net positive ratings in terms of coverage. He was followed by Palin (with 9 percent net positive coverage), Bachmann (8 percent net positive), Cain (5 percent net positive), Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman (both with 4 percent net positive coverage.) Pew found that Cain surged in positive coverage starting in late August - even before he did so in the polls.

The only candidate who received more negative coverage than Mr. Obama was Newt Gingrich, whom Pew found was the subject of negative coverage 35 percent of the time. That can be attrubited in part to his early stumbles, including his criticism of the House GOP Medicare plan and the decision by top staffers to abandom Gingrich's campaign. While Pew found that Mr. Obama received just nine percent positive coverage, however, Gingrich received 15 percent positive coverage.

The candidates with the worst coverage ratio were Mr. Obama (25 percent net negative coverage), Gingrich (20 percent net negative), Rick Santorum (3 percent net negative) and Mitt Romney (1 percent net negative.)

As Politico's Keach Hagey notes, Pew found that Mr. Obama had widely positive media coverage during his first 100 days in office, with 42 percent positive coverage and 20 percent negative coverage.

Here's how Pew in part explains its meathodology - more can be found here:

To assess the tone of coverage, PEJ researchers then employed computer algorithmic software from Crimson Hexagon. Researchers conducted a tone analysis and then "trained" the algorithm to follow the same rules as they had themselves. PEJ also conducted inter-coder tests to ensure the computer coding was replicable and valid by comparing human coding to the results derived by the algorithm. The project also had different people build the algorithms separately to ensure that they were achieving consistent results. Each computer algorithm was then additionally tested for reliability by having multiple researchers review the content assessed and the results.

The tone analysis was conducted on two different samples. The first was of the coverage and commentary on more than 11,500 news outlets, based on their RSS feeds. While the content is text based, the material on various television news sites often closely resembled the stories that had aired on television, and in some cases were exact transcripts. The second was from hundreds of thousands of blogs. (Facebook and Twitter feeds were not included after researchers found that the political assessment offered there was typically quite brief or referred to blog or news content.)

President Obama criticizes Republican approach to jobs crisis‎

In a twist on his 2008 campaign slogan, President Obama suggested that Republicans were adopting a "No, we can't" approach to the jobs crisis, blocking steps to boost the economy to deal him a political setback.

Obama spoke at a high school Tuesday on the second day of his bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia, a campaign-style trip in which he is trying to pressure Congress to pass his jobs package. He is also trying to rebuild his standing in the two battleground states.

The president warned that opponents of his $447-billion jobs bill risked a public backlash if they rejected proposals that would stave off teacher layoffs and boost hiring to fix aging public infrastructure. Those lawmakers will need to explain their votes to angry constituents, he said.

Obama rallied voters during his first run for the White House with an affirming message, "Yes, we can." Recalling those headier times, he urged people to phone, write and tweet their support for his jobs plan.

"I need your voices heard," Obama said. "I need you to give Congress a piece of your mind. Tell these members of Congress they're supposed to be working for you."

He continued: "Remind them that 'No, we can't' is not a good motto."

Republicans have dismissed the bus tour and are showing no more appetite for Obama's proposed American Jobs Act, a piece of which may be voted on by the Senate this week.

"The president has become convinced that the economy is not likely to be much better a year from now," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said to reporters Tuesday. "So he has started the campaign 13 months early, and he's trying to convince the American people that it's anybody else's fault but his that we're where we are."

Between speeches devoted to his jobs plan, Obama is working in some campaign visuals. His armored black bus has stopped in small towns for quick visits to stores and lunch spots. He cooed over a baby at a general store in Boone, N.C., on Monday after scooping up gobs of Halloween candy.

On Tuesday he stopped at Reid's House Restaurant near the North Carolina-Virginia border to shake hands with the lunchtime crowd.

One man told the president he was in the funeral business. That's "important work," Obama told him.

Conscious of Obama's sagging poll numbers, some prominent Democrats don't seem eager to appear with him. Tim Kaine, a former Democratic Party chairman who is running for a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, didn't appear at Obama's stop here. A Kaine spokeswoman said he was in northern Virginia helping legislative candidates who face an upcoming election. Kaine appeared with Obama at a rally in Richmond last month and will attend more events with Obama as the election approaches, she said.

Obama is using the bus tour partly to reintroduce himself to voters after nearly three years of slow economic progress and fierce partisan clashes in Washington. Polls show Obama's approval rating is down in both North Carolina and Virginia — states he captured in 2008. Obama's advisors say they are not writing off either state, but experts say the president's relationship with voters needs repair.

"What these bus tours do is remind people who supported Obama why they supported him and build up some enthusiasm, so that people will want to work for Obama in the 2012 election," said Stephen Farnsworth, author of "Spinner-in-Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves."

The trip is producing some good publicity. The lead story Tuesday in the Winston-Salem Journal was headlined "Obama Reaches Out" and included a front-page picture of Obama swarmed by supporters.

Although he is inviting Republicans to vote for his jobs plan, Obama is making no special effort to court them. He has painted a grim picture of a competing GOP proposal, and says Republicans are less interested in creating jobs than in rolling back some of the legislation passed early in his term.

"You can't pretend that creating dirtier air and water for our kids and fewer people on healthcare and less accountability on Wall Street is a jobs plan," he said Tuesday during a stop in Jamestown, N.C. "I think more teachers in the classroom is a jobs plan. More construction workers rebuilding our schools is a jobs plan. Tax cuts for small-business owners and working families is a jobs plan."

"That's the choice we face. And it's up to you to decide which plan is the real American Jobs Act."

Anti-Wall Street protesters march against New York police

Anti-Wall Street demonstrators marched against New York police on Tuesday, accusing some officers of excessive force when carrying out arrests during a month-long protest campaign against economic inequality.

Nearly a thousand people have been arrested and police have used pepper spray at rallies in New York by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on September 17 and has sparked global protests.

The protests, driven by social media, culminated in global rallies on Saturday that were mostly peaceful apart from in Rome, where riots broke out.

"They tackled me," protester Zach Welch, 24, of Rochester, said of his recent arrest by New York police during a protest outside a bank. "They stepped on me. They slammed my hands into the van ... They charged me with resisting arrest."

Welch was among about 100 demonstrators who protested outside the Manhattan District Attorney's office on Tuesday.

In New York, more than 700 people were arrested on October 2 during an attempted unauthorized march on the Brooklyn Bridge, while another 92 were arrested on Saturday on minor charges.

"We've received about 500 arrests from the NYPD (so far)," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters on Tuesday. He declined to say if any police officers were being investigated in response to the protesters' complaints.

A law enforcement source said police handling of several protest incidents was being investigated by prosecutors. New York police did not respond to requests for comment.

Holding a photocopied paper sign in one hand that read "End NYPD Violence", 24-year-old Milo Gonzalez of Manhattan shouted to protesters on Tuesday: "I'd love to hold this up with both hands, but I can't."

He accused police officers of damaging tendons in his arms when they arrested him during a September 24 protest. He said he was arrested again later on the Brooklyn Bridge.


The Occupy movement has sprung up in cities across America and prompted hundreds of arrests from Boston and Washington to Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and Austin, Texas.

Occupy Arrests, a Twitter feed compiling arrests related to Occupy Wall Street, said that 1,770 people had been arrested around the world so far.

The protesters say they are upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.

They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes. But it remained unclear if the protesters' movement can sustain momentum. Critics have accused it of lacking a clear message or goal.

New York Times columnist Nate Silver has estimated that about 70,000 protesters attended protests in 150 U.S. cities on Saturday during the global day of action. He compared that to the first large protests by the conservative Tea Party group in 2009, which were attended by an estimated 300,000 people.

"We shouldn't rival the Tea Party but rather we should invite them to join us as they are part of the 99 percent," Occupy Wall Street posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

On Friday, a showdown between protesters and New York police was averted when the owner of the publicly accessible Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, postponed a cleanup that demonstrators had feared was a guise to remove them.

"The constitution doesn't protect tents. It protects speech and assembly," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Monday.

Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend Diana Taylor is on the board of directors at Brookfield Office Properties, but the mayor said: "I can tell you that pillow talk in our house is not about Brookfield or Occupy Wall Street."

Latinos Said to Bear Weight of a Deportation Program

A deportation program that is central to the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement strategy has led disproportionately to the removal of Latino immigrants and to arrests by immigration authorities of hundreds of United States citizens, according to a report by two law schools using new, in-depth official data on deportation cases.

The report also found that about a third of around 226,000 immigrants who have been deported under the program, known as Secure Communities, had spouses or children who were United States citizens, suggesting a broad impact from those removals on Americans in Latino communities.

The report, to be released Wednesday, is the first analysis of deportations under the Secure Communities program based on data about individual cases, which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the University of California, Berkeley, law school and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

The Secure Communities program has drawn intense criticism from immigrant communities and from some state and local officials, who have said it led to deportations of many immigrants who were not dangerous offenders and eroded trust between the communities and local police.

Obama administration officials have just as vigorously defended the program. On Tuesday, immigration officials said that the latest deportation figures show that Secure Communities and the Obama administration’s larger strategy are working, announcing that they had deported a total of 396,906 foreigners over the last year, a record number in the last decade.

The officials said that 55 percent of the immigrants deported were criminal convicts, including 51,620 people convicted of felonies like homicide, drug trafficking and sexual offenses. The results were an 89 percent increase in deportations of criminals since the beginning of the Obama administration, the officials said. Of the remaining illegal immigrants deported, the great majority were arrested soon after they crossed the border illegally or had returned illegally after being deported, officials said.

“We came into office focused on creating a smart enforcement system by setting a rational system of priorities, and we have done that,” John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Tuesday. “We said criminal offenders would be our highest priority, and lo and behold, they are the highest priority.”

Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of anyone booked after arrest by local police are checked against F.B.I. criminal databases and also against Department of Homeland Security databases, which record immigration violations. Initiated in 2008, the program has been expanded by the Obama administration to more than 1,500 jurisdictions, and officials have said they will extend it nationwide by 2013.

In a random sample provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement of 375 deportation cases under the program that was analyzed by the law schools, researchers found five cases of United States citizens held by immigration agents, with no clear reason specified in the records. Although the number of citizens is small, their presence in the sample raised concerns because immigration authorities do not have legal powers to prosecute or deport Americans.

“If Secure Communities was working properly,” the report said, a match under the program “should never result in the apprehension” of a citizen. Based on the sample, the researchers estimated that at least 680 United States citizens had been held under the program. No Americans were ever placed in immigration detention, the report found.

Administration officials strongly rejected the report’s findings, saying they were not an accurate description of the program. “Any suggestion that we are knowingly arresting or detaining U.S. citizens would be false and a misrepresentation,” Mr. Morton said.

The officials said that some American citizens arrested by local police could be flagged in a Secure Communities match because the department’s fingerprint databases include immigration violations and also positive histories of immigrants who applied for legal status or naturalized to become American citizens. Immigration agents might hold a foreign-born person already arrested by local police while they were verifying the immigrant’s legal status or American citizenship, they said.

“Wherever we determine that someone is a citizen we don’t detain and remove that person, because we don’t have that power,” Mr. Morton said. But he added, “It would be irresponsible for us not to investigate someone who is suspected of a crime and has some record of being foreign born.”

The researchers said the presence of citizens among deportation cases indicated that the program did not have adequate procedures to avoid the arrest of Americans and others who could or should not be deported.

“The Secure Communities protocol too often is arrest first and investigate later, and that is not what the Constitution dictates,” said Peter L. Markowitz, a professor of immigration law at the Cardozo law school and an author of the report. The other authors were Aarti Kohli and Lisa Chavez of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at the Berkeley law school.

“If this is the quality of due process with regard to U.S. citizens,” Mr. Markowitz said, “we should all be terrified with regard to immigrants who are targets of immigration enforcement.”

The report found that 93 percent of immigrants arrested under Secure Communities were Latinos, although Latino immigrants are only about two-thirds of the illegal immigrants in the United States.

Even state immigration laws have to face reality

By Tamar Jacoby
Change is never pretty. And the change that results when 50 states step in to take on a job Washington has tried and failed to do can be especially messy. This is what's happening -- with a vengeance -- on immigration. In the past five years, there has been a virtual revolution in immigration lawmaking. And the result is not just chaos -- it's a lot of bad policy.

States from Arizona to Virginia have enacted laws cracking down on illegal immigration. Some go after the immigrants; some target the businesses that hire them. Some rely on local police to do the job; others require that employers use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of employees. Many of these statutes have been challenged in court, and the decisions that have been handed down are all over the map.

The most controversial provisions of Arizona's 2010 immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, were put on hold by a federal judge before they could go into effect, and in April the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

But when Alabama's similar law, passed in June, came before a federal judge, she came to exactly the opposite conclusion, upholding sections almost identical to those blocked by the 9th Circuit. And on Friday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took yet a third view, blocking some provisions of the Alabama law but upholding others -- including the section that permits local police to ask about the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons.

An immigration reform advocate who went to sleep five years ago when Congress last tried and failed to pass immigration reform wouldn't recognize the landscape today. The notion that immigration policy is a federal responsibility -- once widely accepted by both parties -- has been shattered, probably forever.Far from finding state immigration laws unconstitutional -- as many legal experts once insisted -- the Supreme Court's May ruling in the Whiting v. U.S. Chamber of Commerce case endorsed the principle that states can and should play a significant role in controlling illegal immigration. And policies once unthinkable to many are now commonplace. A full one-third of the states now require some or all employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of new hires. Four states have enacted measures modeled on Arizona's controversial policing law.

Of course, it's understandable that states are stepping in to grapple with immigration: The system is dysfunctional, and voters want something done. The problem is that most state lawmakers respond to this clamor by intensifying state enforcement.

But critical as enforcement is, enforcement alone won't solve the problem.

To do that, lawmakers need to combine enforcement with fixes to the legal immigration system -- providing enough visas for immigrants who contribute to the economy, create jobs and keep our cities vital while also protecting U.S. workers. And these kinds of fixes are much harder for states to make. So instead, most simply crack down harder on the broken system.

Consider what happened this year in Alabama, the state with the nation's toughest immigration law. The new measure touches nearly every aspect of life in Alabama: hiring, firing, policing, the criminal justice system, state contracts, schools and religion -- the aim being to make every aspect of life harsher and less hospitable for illegal immigrants.The two recent court decisions on the law are not the last word -- there will be many appeals. And in the meantime, chaos reigns across Alabama.

Local law enforcement officials are at a loss, unsure who they should asking for immigration papers or where to house those they arrest -- most jails in Alabama are already full. Immigrants are fleeing the state in droves -- illegal immigrants but also legal residents who have unauthorized relatives and are afraid to lead police to their doors. Five percent of Hispanic children have stopped attending school. Employers -- particularly farmers -- are complaining desperately about labor shortages. And fruit and vegetables are rotting in fields across the state.

Is there a silver lining? At first blush, it's hard to see one. But sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

Voters aren't blind. Most support tough immigration enforcement, but they can also see the crops rotting not just in Alabama but also in Georgia, Arizona and other states.

Employers and business groups once hesitant to get involved in the debate are coming out of the woodwork to complain about worker shortages.

And in a few states, this has led to productive dialogue, even, occasionally, a breakthrough. In a handful of states, the two parties have put their heads together and considered options for solving the problem. In other places, lawmakers have listened to employers when they explained the damage harsh enforcement would do to the economy.

This ferment bore fruit in several states this year.

In Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Texas, legislators stopped short of passing the most draconian measures on the table. And in Utah, politicians, business leaders, law enforcement and faith groups came together to enact legislation that went beyond enforcement only -- trying to create a system that works, at least in Utah.

The most important part of the Utah solution is a state guest-worker program. Exactly how it will function is controversial -- Utah's answer involves unauthorized workers already in the state and others waiting in Mexico for legal visas. But the underlying principle is only common sense: replacing illegal immigrants with a legal foreign work force that employers can turn to when they can't find enough willing and able American workers.

Justice Louis Brandeis called the states the "laboratories" of democracy. A lot of what's going on in those laboratories today is disastrous. Certainly, in Alabama, the results look more like a train wreck than science. But maybe even that offers some reason for hope. After all, even Congress can stand by only so long. At some point, surely, Washington will have to impose order on the chaos spreading in the states.

U.S. deportations reach historic levels


Nearly 400,000 people were deported from the United States in the past fiscal year, the largest number in the history of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the government announced Tuesday.

The year-end removal numbers "underscore the administration's focus on removing individuals ... that fall into priority areas" such as lawbreakers, threats to national security and repeat violators, the agency said in a news release.

Overall in fiscal year 2011, immigration officials said, 396,906 individuals were removed. Of these, 216,698, nearly 55%, had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. That's an 89 percent increase of criminals from three years ago, the enforcement agency said.

"This includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence," it said.

The percentage was even higher for some regions. In the sector that covers Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas, about 74% of the 20,450 removals were of people with criminal records, said Gregory Palmore of the agency's Houston office.

"Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities," said agency Director John Morton. "These year-end totals indicate that we are making progress, with more convicted criminals, recent border crossers, egregious immigration law violators and immigration fugitives being removed from the country than ever before. Though we still have work to do, this progress is a testament to the hard work and dedication of thousands of ICE agents, officers and attorneys around the country."

The government said 90% of the agency's removals fell into a priority category and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

The American Civil Liberties Union reacted to the announcement by again criticizing the Obama administration's emphasis on deportations.

"All told, this administration has deported nearly 1.2 million people, leaving a wake of devastation in Latino communities across the nation," Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel, said in a news release. "These record-breaking deportation numbers come at a time when illegal immigration rates have plummeted, the undocumented population has decreased substantially and violent crime rates are at their lowest levels in 40 years."

Lin also said the deportations represent "uncontrolled, unwarranted" spending of taxpayers' money by the Department of Homeland Security, of which the immigration agency is a part.

The department's chief, Secretary Janet Napolitano, last week defended the administration's polices as she gave advance notice that this fiscal year would end with a record number of removals.

"What ... critics will ignore is that while the overall number of individuals removed will exceed prior years, the composition of that number will have fundamentally changed," she said in a speech at American University.

The Department of Homeland Security more than a month ago announced that the government would review about 300,000 deportation cases pending in federal immigration courts. Lower-priority cases -- those not involving individuals considered violent or otherwise dangerous -- would be suspended under the new criteria.

That change drew criticism from the other side of the immigration issue, with some people who favor more deportations characterizing it as a back-door amnesty program aimed at skirting the nation's immigration laws.

Napolitano said the approach is a common-sense way to tackle immigration problems with limited resources.

"There has never been, nor will there be in these tight fiscal times, sufficient resources to remove all of those unlawfully in the country," she said last week. "That is why it is so important to set clear priorities."