Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Video: Obama in New Jersey: "We Are Here for You"

Speaking in Brigantine, New Jersey Wednesday President Barack Obama told those recovering from superstorm Sandy: "We are here for you, and we will not forget."

New Jersey Video: Christie: Obama 'sprung into action'

Obama tours shattered New Jersey and promises help for Sandy victims

President flies over Jersey shore with governor Chris Christie as Mitt Romney attempts difficult political balancing act in Florida
It is the image that could end up being seen as the defining moment of the the 2012 White House race. Television cameras showed Barack Obama, aboard the presidential helicopter Marine One, flying over the Jersey shore, seeing at first hand the devastation left by superstorm Sandy. Over a thousand miles away, his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, was back on the campaign trail in Florida, trying to balance his desire to make up for time lost while trying to avoid accusations of a premature return. The television networks picked up on the contrast, splitting their screens to show one in presidential mode, seemingly above politics, and the other back on the stump, making partisan points in a time of crisis. The news channels stayed with Obama almost throughout the day as he witnessed the destruction and talked with officials and victims, offering sympathy and promising help. On his flight over New Jersey, Obama saw a string of towns along the coast, the worst hit of which is Seaside Heights. From the air, he could see houses flattened, roads covered in sand or water, a carnival and large pier that looked as if large bites had been taken out of them, and the boardwalk gone except for lonely posts here and there, according to a White House pooled report.It is not just the emotion that is helping Obama. He is being given a boost by an unexpected source, the popular governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who joined him in Atlantic City for the helicopter tour. Christie is not only a Republican but one of Romney's highest-profile backers. Republicans are still trying to work out how to respond to Christie lavishly praising Obama, less than a week before the election. Christie, resisting calls from some Republicans to get in a dig at Obama during the visit, went out his way instead to thank him again.
"It's really important to have the president of the United States here," Christie said when the two stopped at the Brigantine Beach community centre, where 50 people are sheltering. Obama returned the compliment, telling the people in the shelter: "I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime" to repair damages in the state. Although Obama tried to avoid saying anything political, he seemed to be making the case for federal intervention, in particular the federal emergency management agency, which has been overseeing the rescue and recovery operation. Romney last year proposed cutting back Fema. "The country comes to help because you never know when someone is going to get hit by a disaster," Obama said. With the storm still raw, few politicians or commentators are prepared yet to discuss publicly the impact of Sandy on the White House race. But in private, some, even Republicans, will admit that Obama is the fortunate beneficiary of this act of nature. Roger Simon, a columnist on Politico, is one of the few to go public, writing that: "Hurricane Sandy has given Barack Obama a lift beneath his wings." He said that the disaster and his "shrewd calculation" to stop campaigning in order to supervise the relief effort has provide him with the one thing he had needed for weeks: the opportunity to look presidential. This week had supposed to be Romney's big push, building on the momentum that started with his surprise debate victory over Obama in Denver on October 3. Instead, he has been largely sidelined by Sandy. Having seen his campaign schedule wrecked on Sunday and Monday, and having been forced to suspend it on Tuesday, even Romney return failed to excite the media. He was only a few sentences into a speech in Florida when one of the television networks subjected him to the indignity of cutting him off mid-sentence. Obama's team knows that Obama is benefiting from the attention but are careful to avoid acknowledging it. The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, was asked by a reporter on a flight to New Jersey if Obama was sending a political message by visiting the state. Carney vigorously denied it. "This is a time to focus on what was a devastating storm and the terrible aftermath of that storm.," Carney said. "New Jersey was by many measures the hardest-hit state. I believe that's correct. It is entirely appropriate for the president to visit New Jersey and receive updates on the efforts there to recover and to view first-hand the damage inflicted by Sandy. This is not a time for politics." The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, had not invited Obama to the city, but Carney insisted that was because the two had agreed that a visit to lower Manhattan would have tied up resources needed for helping to restore transport links and power. Before leaving for New Jersey, Obama phoned doctors and nurses in New York to thank them for their bravery during the storm and helping to evacuate 200 patients. Against that backdrop, it was an awkward balancing act for Romney on his return to the campaign trail. He had to avoid being too aggressively partisan in time of crisis. But he could not completely hold back, saying that unlike Obama, he does not "just talk about change — I actually have a plan to execute change and make it happen." Screens on either side of Romney urged donations to the Red Cross. He also asked people if they had a spare dollar, to send it in. "We love all of our fellow citizens, we come together in times like this and we want to make sure they have a speedy recovery," Romney said. But he could not resist making a political point too. "People coming together is also what I believe will happen on November 7," he said, suggesting that the public would rally round behind him after he wins the November 6 election. One fact that the Romney campaign can hang on to is that the storm has so far not had a major impact on the swing states. Both New York and New Jersey are solidly Democratic, at least in White House races, and while there is sympathy for the victims, New York in particular is viewed in the midwest as Gomorrah. It is the second time in months that weather has disrupted Romney's campaign. A hurricane forced him to abandon the opening day of the Republican convention in Tampa, meant to introduce him to the American people and showcase his policies. The convention never quite recovered from the disruption. In spite of the lost days, his campaign team expressed confidence that Romney will win on Tuesday, pointing to polls showing him with leads in key states. Obama's chief campaign adviser, David Axelrod, in a phone-conference with reporters, described the Republicans as delusional and suggested the polls they were quoting were unreliable. He said he was hesitant to talk about the election in terms of the impact of the storm given that 50 people had died and millions of dollars worth of damage. Having said that, he admitted: "The only impact I would suggest is that it tended to freeze the race because people are focused on the storm." Obama will return to the campaign trail Thursday, making up for lost time with a race across three states: Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado. Polls show the race remains tight. The Obama campaign claims it is tied or ahead in all eight swing states and is building a strong firewall, having a large advantage among those voting early. The Republicans say that their supporters traditionally turn out in larger numbers on election day and this will eliminate the Democratic early voting advantage.

Obama gets first-hand look at storm devastation

President Barack Obama inspected the devastation from Sandy on Wednesday, flying high over flooded neighborhoods, sand-strewn streets and a burning fire that charred homes along the New Jersey coastline. With Election Day less than a week away, Obama's visit to view the aftermath of the rare autumn storm was layered with political implications. The president's tour guide was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and top supporter of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney who joined Obama on a Marine One helicopter ride over the region.
To the chagrin of some Republicans, Christie has lavished praise on Obama for his efforts in helping states deal with the storm. Even though politics infuse every moment in the final week before Election Day, the White House sought to focus attention on the storm, an event that has given Obama an opportunity to project presidential leadership in the final days of the tightly contested White House race. White House spokesman Jay Carney said there were no political motivations behind Obama's decision to join his supporter's rival Wednesday. "This is not a time for politics," Carney said. "The president appreciates the efforts of governors, state and local officials across the various states that were affected by the storm, regardless of political party." During the helicopter tour, Obama and Christie saw a carnival and a large pier that had been damaged, along with flattened houses and fragments of wood scattered throughout neighborhoods. Parts of the New Jersey shore's famed boardwalk was missing in sections and in one area, a fire was still burning and appeared to have taken out about eight homes.

Obama, Christie tour storm damage
President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie --
the newest political odd couple -- began a tour Wednesday of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey shore. The Democratic president and Republican governor -- a major supporter of White House challenger Mitt Romney -- took an aerial tour that included sights of charred houses, sand-packed and water-logged streets, and busted bridges and boardwalks. At least one Jersey resident showed some puckish political humor; on the sand at Point Pleasant Beach, someone wrote a name in large letters: ROMNEY. While an outspoken critic of Obama's policies in general, Christie has praised the president's leadership in the aftermath of the hurricane that swept through the northeast United States on Monday and Tuesday. Christie, wearing a blue polar fleece, slacks, and white sneakers, greeted Obama at airport in Atlantic City. The president is wearing khaki pants, a blue windbreaker, and brown hiking boots. The two men and Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, boarded a Marine One helicopter for their tour. Obama and Chris Christie also planned to speak with local officials about rescue and recovery efforts. While the Atlantic City boardwalk appears to be intact, observers saw mountains of sand covering city streets up and down the Jersey coast. Pools and pools of standing water also dotted the landscape. In Beach Haven, on Long Beach Island, entire streets are underwater, and buildings are pock-marked by boarded-up or broken windows. Some of the worst damage occurred at Seaside Heights, where roads are covered by either water or sand. Both the boardwalk and a nearby carnival got smashed by Hurricane Sandy, leaving wood fragments everywhere. A fire that burned down at least eight house still smolders. Other homes lost their decks to the storm's fury. Abandoned cars remain on a bridge knocked down at one end. Earlier in the day, Obama visited FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., for another briefing on recovery plans. The president also called the New York University-Langone Medical Center to thank doctors and nurses for evacuating more than 200 patients as the storm approached, said White House spokesman Jay Carney. One topic Carney would not address: What impact, if any, will the storm have on Obama's fortunes on Election Day next Tuesday. Carney said the president is dealing with governors, mayors, and other local officials "regardless" of political party. "This is a time to focus on what was a devastating storm and the terrible aftermath of that storm," Carney said. "This is not a time for politics." The next town to the north, Point Pleasant Beach, again has sand and water everywhere. It is about four blocks inland before you can see concrete on the roads. Someone has written "ROMNEY" in large letters in the sand at the north end of Point Pleasant Beach. We pass over a harbor. The boats seem to be in okay shape. Flying back south on the bay side of Long Beach Island. The water level is high, lapping at the bottom of homes. On the mainland bay shore again there are homes and parts of homes turned into wood piles. The island's bay shore seems to be in better shape. There's a two-span bridge to Long Beach Island that looks to be in tact, though on the island side there looked to be mud on the road. Heading south, more water on mainland roadways near the bay. Entire sections of several hundred yards each of the north-south road closest to the bay are underwater but there are vehicles traversing it. Perhaps it was tough to catch from the helo, but pool did not see very many trees down. Not many leaves left on the trees either. The last 10 minutes of the ride were relatively uneventful. Pool passed over mainland towns, a trailer park which seemed to have survived unscathed and a golf course with the appropriate amount of sand on it. There are entire subdivisions that look like no storm hit. Nighthawk Two landed back at the Atlantic City airport at 2:24 p.m. Marine One followed seconds later.

Christie, Obama form pre-election bond in Sandy’s wake

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a staunch Romney supporter, heaped praise on President Barack Obama’s quick response to Sandy in the aftermath of the massive storm that devastated the state’s shoreline. Reuters correspondent John Whitesides says Christie’s comments, while sincere, may also enhance his own standing as a leader in crisis. GOP challenger Mitt Romney held a Sandy relief event at an Ohio arena as he prepared to resume campaigning in key swing states on Wednesday.

Ageing in the Oval Office

Obama goes to FEMA before visit to storm-racked NJ
President Obama is paying a visit to Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters ahead of his trip to New Jersey to see the damage done by superstorm Sandy. Obama took a motorcade to FEMA's offices to meet with agency chiefs before a planned flight to Atlantic City, N.J., to meet with Sandy's victims and relief workers. Days before the election, the president has kept up a steady public presence overseeing the storm response, while canceling a series of public campaign rallies. It was Obama's second visit in four days. On Sunday, he met with FEMA officials, then told reporters the government will "respond big and respond fast" after the massive storm made landfall.

President Zardari expresses concern over Hurricane Sandy' destruction in US

President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed concern over the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. He was talking to Pakistan's Ambassador to United States‚ Sherry Rehman in Karachi on Wednesday. Expressing grief over the loss of lives and huge destruction caused to the property‚ the president expressed his sympathies with the affected people and has wished early rehabilitation of the affectees. The President especially inquired about the well being of the Pakistani community present in the affected areas and advised the ambassador to provide all possible help to the affected people.

President Obama on 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno'

Malala status updates-Wednesday 31 October 2012

The medical team caring for Malala Yousufzai at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham reported today that she is still stable and making good progress with her treatment.
Only the medical team from the Queen Elizabeth and Birmingham Children’s hospitals and Malala’s immediate family have been given access to her bedside.

Obama to tour storm-hit New Jersey on Wednesday
Barely one month ago, outspoken New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was telling President Barack Obama to "get on a plane and go back to Chicago where you belong." But the Republican will play host to his target on Wednesday, as Obama tours areas of the Garden State pummeled by superstorm Sandy. "Tomorrow afternoon, the President will travel to New Jersey where he will join Governor Christie in viewing the storm damage, talking with citizens who are recovering from the storm and thanking first responders who put their lives at risk to protect their communities," the White House announced. Obama has scrapped three days of campaign travel in favor of staying in Washington to oversee the federal government's response to the deadly storm. He's been seen in the Situation Room talking to top advisers, at the Red Cross urging donations and in the White House briefing room delivering a televised warning to Americans to listen to official evacuation orders. Aides don't mind the campaign break too much: Images of the president doing his job aren't exactly bad for his re-election prospects. (Look for the president to resume campaigning on Thursday.) And Christie? "The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit," Christie told MSNBC on Tuesday. "He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it." "It's been very good working with the president and his administration. It's been wonderful," he added, saying he had three conversations with Obama on Monday. "He asked me what I needed. I said if he could expedite the Major Disaster Declaration without all the normal FEMA mumbo-jumbo. He got right on it," Christie continued. On Fox News, Christie said Obama had helped "tremendously" by declaring the state a major disaster area, freeing up federal aid. "He's been very attentive, and anything that I've asked for, he's gotten to me. So I thank the president publicly for that. He's done—as far as I'm concerned—a great job for New Jersey." What about Mitt Romney? Will the Republican presidential nominee be touring disaster-hit areas, Fox asked. "I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested," Christie replied, immediately shutting down the idea. "I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff." "I have a job to do," he stressed. "I've got 2.4 million people out of power, I've got devastation on the shore, I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me."

Obama visits storm victims while Romney campaigns

Associated Press
President Barack Obama, locked in a fierce re-election bid, is emphasizing his incumbent's role for a third straight day, skipping battleground states to visit victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, a state he's confident of winning. The president's actions have forced his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to walk a careful line and make tough choices.
The former Massachusetts governor must show respect for the superstorm's casualties all along the Eastern Seaboard. But Romney can ill afford to waste a minute of campaign time, with the contest virtually deadlocked in several key states and the election six days away. After tamping down his partisan tone Tuesday at an Ohio event that chiefly emphasized victims' relief, Romney planned three full-blown campaign events Wednesday in Florida, the largest competitive state. Sandy largely spared Florida, so Romney calculates he can campaign there without appearing callous. Obama's revised schedule is a political gamble, too. Rather than use the campaign's final Wednesday to woo voters in tossup states, he will go before cameras with New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie. Christie is one of Romney's most prominent supporters, and a frequent Obama critic. But Christie praised Obama's handling of superstorm Sandy, a political twist the president's visit is sure to underscore. Obama also took full advantage of incumbency Tuesday. He visited the Red Cross national headquarters — a short walk from the White House — to commiserate with victims and encourage aid workers. "This is a tough time for millions of people," the president said. "But America is tougher." While Obama and Romney moved cautiously Tuesday, their campaigns exchanged sharp words in Ohio and expanded their operations into three Democratic-leaning states, a move that will reshape the contest's final six days. Romney's campaign is running ads in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and a pro-Romney group is doing the same in Michigan. The three states were considered fairly safe for Obama, but his campaign is taking the threat seriously. It sent former President Bill Clinton to Minnesota on Tuesday and it is buying airtime in all three states. Republican strategists differ on the Romney campaign's thinking. Some think Romney's aides fear losing all-important Ohio, and they hope for a stunning last-minute breakthrough elsewhere to compensate. Others say the GOP camp has so much money — and so few chances to buy useful airtime in saturated states — that it can spend millions of dollars on a long shot without scrimping in a battleground. "If they didn't have so much money, they wouldn't be able to do something with so little chance of success," said Democratic strategist Tad Devine. Some Republicans played down the significance of the expand-the-map strategy. "This always happens this time of year" in a big campaign, said Republican consultant Mike McKenna of Richmond, Va. "They see a poll or two" that suggests a sudden tightening of the race in a place like Minnesota "and they get all excited." "They tend to chase shiny objects," McKenna said. Ohio, he said, remains by far the most important state for Romney to win. Another sign that Ohio looms large for the Romney campaign: a guest-filled rally in suburban Cincinnati on Friday to kick off the campaign's final four days. Set to join the GOP ticket are golf legend Jack Nicklaus, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Meanwhile, Democratic groups bitterly complained about a TV ad the Romney camp is running in the Toledo and Youngstown areas of Ohio. The ad suggests that Jeep will move its Toledo car-making facility to China, a claim Jeep executives deny. Democrats called the ad a brazen lie and a sign of desperation. Even some Republicans worried that Romney has gone too far in a state where voters follow the auto industry closely. "It's the kind of thing that happens late in the campaign, when everybody's tired and you're not quite yourself," McKenna said. "It didn't help. But I don't think it's a big thing. At this point, everybody has made up their mind." Vice President Joe Biden planned to campaign Wednesday in Florida. Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, was scheduled to campaign in his home state, Wisconsin.

Rights group urges Bahrain to lift ban on protests

Rights group Amnesty International has called on Bahrain to lift a ban on all public protests immediately, saying it violates people's right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The ban was announced by the Interior Ministry on Tuesday on the grounds that public rallies "jeopardize civil peace and disturb security and general order," according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.The government had sought to protect freedom of expression, but "that privilege has been abused repeatedly by organizers' violations" and people's lack of respect for the law, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa is quoted as saying. Rallies will remain outlawed until "security is maintained," BNA reported.

Bahrainis hold anti-regime demonstrations in Manama despite ban

Bahraini anti-regime protesters have once again staged rallies in the capital Manama despite a recent ban on all opposition protests and public gatherings. The angry protesters took to the streets in support of political prisoners being held in jails, including opposition leader Hassan Mushaima. The family of Mushaima says he is gravely ill and needs immediate medical attention. Senior Bahraini cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim said the Al Khalifa regime has denied treatment of Mushaima in jail despite his “frightening” health condition. Bahraini security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators in Manama. The recent demonstration comes after Bahrain’s Interior Ministry imposed a ban on all protests and gatherings across the country and cited anti-regime demonstrations as repeated abuse of the rights to freedom of speech and expression. “All rallies and gatherings have been suspended and no public activity will be allowed until security and stability are achieved,” said Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa on Tuesday. “Rallies and gatherings will be considered illegal and legal action will be taken against anyone calling for or taking part in them.” Bahraini protesters have been holding anti-regime demonstrations since February 2011 and they hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death of demonstrators during the uprising. The protesters say they will continue holding demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.

Key suspect in Malala shooting arrested along with others

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday that the key suspect involved in shooting 15-year-old child activist Malala Yousufzai, Ataullah along with all the others has been arrested, reported BBC Urdu. Malik said that Ataullah was arrested along with his fiancée. According to the report, Khan had crossed over from Afghanistan in to Pakistan, before making his way to Swat. There, he tracked down his target, intercepting Malala’s school van on October 9, 2012. He fled shortly after the assassination attempt. Khan, a former Swat resident, was last week identified by police officials as the main suspect in the shooting incident. Police said that Khan had been a studying for a master’s degree in chemistry prior to opting for militancy and had studied for his Bachelor of Science degree in physics at Jahanzeb College in Swat. The interior minister said that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had adopted a new strategy of carrying out attacks and were now teaming up with proclaimed offenders. Responding to a question regarding handing over of Maulana Fazlullah, Malik said that the government had not only spoken with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but a written application had also been sent out to the Afghanistan government. However, he said, the Afghan government has not yet responded. Pakistan had requested Afghanistan to hand over Maulana Fazlullah, claiming that he was involved in planning major attacks in Pakistan from across the border, including the attack on peace activist Malala Yousufzai. Malik said that Malala shooting cannot be used as justification for demanding a military offensive in North Waziristan. He said that before a military operation, many aspects are looked into, on top of which is the security of the locals. The evacuation of inhabitants of that area is one of the implications other than appropriate time, weather and action.

Afghanistan presidential election set for April 2014

Afghanistan will hold its next presidential election on April 5, 2014, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday. President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, had denied speculation that security problems and the exit of foreign troops that year would delay the poll. The credibility of the vote will be vital to the security and stability of Afghanistan after the final foreign combat troops have left by the end of 2014. Karzai's re-election in 2009 was blighted by allegations of fraud.

India Okays cricket series with Pakistan

Indian media reported on Tuesday that Pakistan may tour India in December. The likely venues for the matches are Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata. Bilateral cricketing ties were snapped following the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, though the two countries have played each other in the World Cup, Champions Trophy and Asia Cup. It is Pakistan s turn to host a bilateral series between the two. But there has been no international cricket in the country between Full Members since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus and it is understood that India are not keen to play at a neutral venue, as has been the case with all Pakistan s home series since the attack. The decision was taken by the BCCI at its working committee meeting few months back. Rajiv Shukla, a senior BCCI official had said the plan was to hold the three ODIs in Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata, and the Twenty20 matches in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The decision comes after prolonged, high-level consultations between officials of the two boards and, latterly, of the two governments.

Baluchistan latest epicenter of attacks on Pakistani press

Sumit Galhotra/CPJ Steiger Fellow
It is one step forward and two steps back in Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province. The nation's highest court has acknowledged the dangerous climate journalists face in Baluchistan, but it has also affirmed a directive that only adds to the pressure cooker conditions that journalists work under. Last week, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry affirmed the Baluchistan High Court's order to bar news coverage of banned groups, which has caused tension among journalists. The order restricts the media from publishing or airing news items that cover banned groups or project their views. Journalists, however, are under intense pressure to report in line with the views of various militants and separatists. Now, pressure is being exerted from the other side as well. "It has become very difficult to work in such a stifling climate of threats," Essa Tareen, president of the Baluchistan Union of Journalists, told CPJ by phone. "Just today, we received news of a case where a journalist named Nadeem Garginari, a senior journalist and the president of Khuzdar Press Club, was targeted by miscreants just minutes ago. One of his sons was killed and another injured in the incident," he told CPJ. CPJ is investigating possible motives in the attack to determine if it is connected to Garginari's work as a journalist. Instead of providing relief to journalists, authorities recently lodged complaints to the police (or first information reports, as they are known in much of South Asia) against them for staging a sit-in to protest the murder of Abdul Haq Baloch last month in Khuzdar and the breakdown of law and order in the region, Tareen said. Noting this lack of law and order, Pakistan's Supreme Court issued an interim order last week asking the federal government to take effective measures to protect the lives and property of the people in Baluchistan, stating that the provincial government has been unable to maintain control. Chief Justice Chaudhry said incidents of targeted killings were taking place on a daily basis and that journalists were not safe there, according to news reports. Baluchistan--Pakistan's largest province by area, but smallest by population--is mired in a separatist movement, a conflict that has existed since the inception of Pakistan in 1947. The province is plagued by sectarian strife, tribal feuds, and criminal activity, with daily disappearances and targeted killings. On top of that, the capital, Quetta, and its surrounding towns are rearguard headquarters and staging areas for the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other groups fighting in Afghanistan. According to official figures, at least 868 people have been killed, 619 kidnapped, and 2,390 gone missing from the province since 2010. Journalists there face pressure from a number of sources: pro-Taliban groups and Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies, as well as Baluch separatists and state-sponsored anti-separatist militant groups. The province receives scant international media attention amid the rest of Pakistan's political turbulence. But if Pakistan is one of the deadliest countries for journalists, then Baluchistan has become one of the country's hubs of hazard. CPJ research shows that this year alone, five journalists have been targeted and killed for their work in Pakistan--three of them in Baluchistan. More than a dozen journalists have been killed in the province since 2008. Local groups tend to put the numbers of journalists killed higher, but because of the political turmoil it is often impossible to discern the reason for an attack as many journalists straddle the line between political activism and reporting. Just last month, Baloch, also a longtime local correspondent for ARY Television, was shot by unidentified assailants. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist, wrote after Haq's death that the journalist had been threatened by the state-sponsored Baloch Musalah Diffa Army in November 2011 and had subsequently been named on a hit list issued by its spokesman. Haq's family declined to discuss widespread assertions by his colleagues that he was killed because security forces were angry that he was working with the families of missing Baluchis on presenting cases before a court. While the government announced that a judicial commission will be set up to ascertain the facts about Haq's murder, no information has surfaced to date. Past instances have shown that commissions and inquiries such as these are mainly symbolic, and few, if any, concrete steps are taken to address the impunity that exists in Pakistan. The country is ranked 10th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights places where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free. Conditions continue to look bleak for journalists operating in the province, as they do across Pakistan. Earlier this year, CPJ expressed concerns that the issues faced by journalists are inextricably linked to larger endemic problems in Pakistan, and applauded efforts by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to draw attention to the "constant cloud of intimidation and violence" under which journalists live. The chief justice's recent acknowledgment only adds to the resounding chorus demanding a change in the forecast.

Pakistan: Troops, tanks roll into Khyber

A large number of regular Army troops have been deployed for launched an operation in Khyber Agency, reported BBC on Tuesday. The move came following a clash between security forces and militants. According to eyewitnesses, security forces have cordoned off several areas in Barqamber Khel and Sepah, while arresting many suspects on Tuesday morning. Locals say that all major roads leading to Bara were closed creating difficulties for them. Locals say that regular military troops are being deployed in Bara sub-division. They say that scores of military personnel are entering Bara sub-division with tanks. Ahmad Nabi from Khyber Agency adds: Three persons including two children were killed on Tuesday when a mortar shell landed at the house of a tribesman in Sepah area of tehsil Bara, official and local sources said. Sources said that a stray mortar shell fired by unknown militants from unknown area hit the house of one, Saidullah which killed him alongwith two other children on the spot. The house was also damaged in the incident, sources said. In addition three unknown bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from tehsil Bara on Tuesday, locals said. All the three persons had been shot and killed, sources said. Identification of the deceased could not be confirmed till filing of this report. Meanwhile, the forces action was in progress in Bara and the dwellers of Shlober, Qamber Khel, Sem Baba and Malikdin Khel were instructed on mega phones to stay at their homes. Most of the families have evacuated their residence in the operation zones and have taken refuge in mosques and schools in Ber-Kamber Khel and were being providing food and water by the locals.

Don't Let the 'Malala Moment' Pass

By: Sonia Nassery
A 15-year old girl lies in a London hospital, air-lifted from Pakistan after an assassination attempt. Malala Yousafzai's "crime"? Believing that girls deserve the right to education. The attack was apparently ordered by a Taliban leader whom the Washington Post wrote is "infamous for his long campaign against female education." Thousands marched in cities across Pakistan in protest as pictures of this brave young girl became a rallying symbol. But less than two weeks later, the New York Times wrote that the "Malala moment" has passed, and the country has drifted back into religious extremism, conspiratorial paranoia, and chaos. Is this region, which has witnessed so much bloodshed, including the final sacrifices by American and allied servicemembers, beyond hope? Is extremism the inevitable conclusion of religious Muslims, or a perversion of Islam and a minority view within Afghanistan and Pakistan? I believe passionately that the latter is true, and I say this as an Afghan American facing death threats for my advocacy work for Afghan women. I have spent three decades involved in Afghan relief and giving voice to the voiceless people of Afghanistan, first in response to the Soviet invasion, and then to the tyranny of the Taliban, which hijacked Islam and claimed authority under the name of my religion. I spent over two months in Afghanistan in 2010, filming the first feature film to be entirely shot there in my lifetime. Black Tulip was made for simple reasons: To show the world how real families live in my country, and how true Muslims practice Islam, a religion which is the antithesis of the Taliban's terror. Extremists' hardened hearts may never change, but the real battle is for the majorities in both this conflict region and in the West. I believe that we must not let the Malala moment pass. We need to recognize the common aspirations of most families in every country; to refuse to let any religion be hijacked; and to insist on giving all individuals both basic human rights and education, which is the path to understanding and personal improvement. In the region of my birth, as Malala's plight makes clear, women are both the battleground and our greatest hope. As the West moves to end its military role in the region, it is all the more important that commonality is understood and nurtured. It is shocking to us to see quotes from Pakistanis wondering if Malala was really the victim of the Taliban or of some American plot. Unless one assumes a mass psychosis, such thinking must be seen as coming from a Pakistani media that too often whips up hatred rather than searches for truth, and a national mood that is understandably angry and preoccupied over civilian deaths from U.S. drone attacks, yet forgetful of the decades of U.S. humanitarian and economic aid. I believe that most people in the region understand and appreciate America's help, but it is easy to question a nation's intentions when you fundamentally do not know its people or its values. And that problem goes both ways. The comments of my native-born American friends who have seen Black Tulip have been both heartwarming and surprising. "Thank you for giving me a window to a world I have never seen before. With all of the media coverage of the war, this was the first time I really saw Afghanistan in its beauty and culture -- it makes the reality of what we're fighting for and identifying the enemy so much more powerful," one friend told me. "I had no sense of how a Muslim family in your country really lives -- what they eat, how they relate to one another, what their daily lives are, " another said. This hasn't been the role of our media -- all we see are men with guns and women with burqas -- and headlines are grabbed by the outrageous, not the ordinary. And for a generation, it hasn't been safe to film in my country, so how could these stories of ordinary life be told? That's why we stayed and kept the cameras rolling, even when the Taliban threatened us. The stakes for my film crew and me were personal, but the larger effort really impacts us all: Our enemies want to keep us strangers to one another, just as they needed to silence young Malala. Terror by definition works on our fears and forces us to retreat away from others in a desperate effort to stay safe. Thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans chose a very different approach when they took to the streets in mass demonstrations against the Taliban attempt on Malala's life and the broader effort to force women into a kind of slavery. It is hard to maintain this public passion knowing the likely retribution of a brutal enemy. That's why the West must bolster moderate voices and ensure access to education, which unquestionably is the ultimate change agent. If we turn our back on this struggle, we betray those Americans who have already given their lives. We write off a generation of women who could bring stability to countries too long victimized by violence, and we threaten our own safety by allowing a major world religion to be perverted by fanatics into a rationale for harming us. These are big stakes. Knowing them, Malala continued to speak and write despite death threats. Those stakes motivated us to create Black Tulip in spite of the risks. Let us all keep those stakes vividly in front of us, vowing not to let the Malala moment pass.
Sonia Nassery Cole is an Afghan American activist who founded the Afghanistan World Foundation in 2002. She is author of Will I Live Tomorrow? and director of Black Tulip, which was Afghanistan's official entry for the 83rd Academy Awards. The film premieres in theaters and on demand this week. is an Afghan American activist who founded the Afghanistan World Foundation in 2002. She is author of Will I Live Tomorrow? and director of Black Tulip, which was Afghanistan's official entry for the 83rd Academy Awards. The film premieres in theaters and on demand this week.

Malala The 'Voice Of Swat Valley'

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
As Malala Yousafzai clings to life following a gun attack by the Pakistani Taliban, people around the globe are paying homage to the 14-year-old's bravery in defending her and others' right to an education. One is Abdul Hai Kakar, a former BBC Urdu Service reporter and current RFE/RL Radio Mashaal broadcaster who helped bring Malala's message to the world's attention. Interview conducted by Frud Bezhan. RFE/RL: When did you first meet Malala?
Abdul Hai Kakar:
In 2008, the Taliban took control of the northwest Pakistan Swat Valley. They imposed a ban on girls' education. I was working for the BBC and floated an idea that I would like to start a diary from Swat that would be genuine, I mean from a Swat girl. [I wanted] to give a human touch and first-hand eyewitness account of the conflict, which was a very humanitarian conflict. Malala Yousafzai's father was my friend and he was running a school in the Swat Valley. I talked to him because [I was hoping] he could find a schoolgirl for me. He tried for days and called me back and said nobody was ready to talk because everyone was afraid of the Taliban. But he hesitantly told [me] that if I agreed, then his daughter could work with me. Then I contacted her and started the diary. RFE/RL: How much risk was Malala taking in writing the online diary for BBC, a project she began at the age of 11? What measures were taken to ensure her safety?
Anybody in Pakistan who speaks against the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani Taliban [is a target because] there is a jihadist paradigm, jihadist mindset, and jihadist narrative. Anybody in Pakistan who is countering this narrative is a target. I thought [Malala] would be like that because she was giving us first-hand information, her perspective, and she was representing Swat. That would [pose] a problem both from the Taliban and the army. There was an impression that the Taliban and Pakistani army were and are the same faces of one coin. Then we decided that her [pseudonym] name should be Gul Makki. Gul Makki in our folk stories is a heroine. I wanted to give an indigenous, symbolic attachment to Swat and so that the people could own it journalistically. RFE/RL: You have said Malala was very close to you and your family. What is she like?
[There] were two or three things I liked about her. She was very confident. Whenever she was talking she wasn't shy. She belongs to a tribal area, so, in our region it's difficult for the child to talk to their elders. They're shy, but she was not. The second thing was she had a very good political understanding of her area. She was influenced by her father, obviously, because he was a political activist and he was trying to talk to her to tell her the environment. So she had good knowledge of the area and she was trained by her father how to talk to the media. Thirdly, she was a very keen observer. When she was writing her diary, it was like the voice of Swat Valley. Everybody I met would say, "Wow, this is a very nice diary." And what we have seen in the content is all true. RFE/RL: What was your role in the writing process and publication of her diary?
I talked to her and told her, "You can tell me on [the] telephone what you did that day, what you thought, what were your feelings, and what you saw." So [I told her] just share with me and I will take notes and then I will write it down. So, from my wife's telephone number I would call [Malala] because her [my wife's] phone was safe. So we used to talk to each other for 30 minutes each night for five or seven days [in a row]. Then after that I would send it to BBC English and Urdu to publish. RFE/RL: How important was it to publish Malala's diary? What kind of effect did it have in Pakistan?
So when people saw [Malala's diary], it was appealing for them journalistically and also for the international media. I mean, the Pakistani media was not highlighting the humanitarian issues but trying to show the world that it was only a security problem. But this diary gave a humanitarian face to the tragedy. All the international media was lifting this story. RFE/RL: What kind of effect has the attack on Malala had in Pakistan? Has it led to greater condemnation of the Taliban or the Pakistani Army, which many Pakistanis believe supports militant groups?
This [diary encouraged]...people to hate the Taliban and they unanimously condemned them. All the people are with Malala -- I would say 180 million people [Pakistan's population] are with Malala. So, it [highlights] what she meant for the people. She was a kind of a celebrity for them and they have an attachment with her. She is symbolizing the rights for [girls'] education. She shook the entire country and [only] now the people are debating and talking about how to fix the Taliban, army, and jihadist mindset and the militants.

Sharif brothers’ dream to rule country would never be realised

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo on Tuesday said that Sharif brothers would know their real worth during the next elections. He was talking to delegations of PPP workers from Lahore and Sahiwal. While addressing them, he said that Sharif brothers were dreaming of Zia ul Haq’s days but that will remain their dream which would never be realized. Wattoo alleged that Punjab government was concentrating all its attention on the development of Lahore and there was none to look at the plight of other parts of Punjab. He said the PPP has been doing the politics of poor and was confident that it would emerge victorious in the province in the next elections. He held PML-N as the product of a dictator but made it clear that in future no one would be able to come through the backdoor and people of the nation would decide the destiny of Pakistan in the future. He said PPP was preparing for elections in Punjab and with the support of the allies, they would prove that Punjab belongs to PPP and no power would be able to stop them from victory in the province.

Pakistan:Interim govt to take over on March 19

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Tuesday said that caretaker setup would assume charge after March 18 and general elections will be held according to the time stipulated in the constitution. “Interim government will take charge from the incumbent government on March 19, 2013,” Kaira said after having a meeting with Norwegian ambassador at his residence. Talking to the media persons, he said that if consensus about the caretaker setup had not been formed before mid-March, the Election Commission would decide in this regard. The government does not want to waste its efforts made in the last four and half years by delaying elections and such rumours are being spread by the opposition, the minister said. “Delaying elections is not possible in the presence of independent judiciary, vibrant media and civil society. Opposition is spreading such rumours for the fear of defeat,” he added. Kaira said the PPP had spurned the practice of political victimisation. Criticising Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, he said the PPP had not compromised on principles despite having troubles in the past while the Sharifs had preferred inking a 10-year exile agreement with General (r) Pervez Musharraf to save their skins. To a question, he said the government did not believe in victimising its opponents, adding that nobody can pinpoint even a single example of political victimisation during the tenure of the PPP. The information minister said that the Punjab government was busy in victimising its political opponents, referring the registration of cases against a PPP MPA, Shaukat Basra. To another question, he said: “The PPP members have accepted the appointment of Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo as their Punjab president. Some PPP workers have reservations about the alliance with PML-Q, however, this is not an issue for a big political party. The federal information minister urged the institutions to work within their limits. Earlier, the minister hosted a luncheon meeting for Norwegian envoy to Pakistan Cecillie Landsverk and head of opposition Conservative Party Ms Erna Salberg. In the meeting, the leaders discussed matters of mutual interest. Talking to media persons, Ms Erna said Pakistan and Norway enjoy cordial relations. Pakistanis are playing important role in the development and progress of Norway. The policy-makers of Norway keep the interests of foreigners residing in Norway supreme before finalising the policies. She said Pakistanis are playing major role in the development and progress of Norway. Norway has softened the immigration laws aiming to facilitate the foreign workers, who want to bring their families with them. Ms Erna expressed her goodwill and best wishes for the forthcoming general elections in Pakistan. She said a Pakistani player is serving in the football team of Norway. After Swat operation the whole world accepted the sincerity of Pakistan in fighting terrorists. The minister thanked the envoy and Ms Erna for visiting his ancestral home. He said the government in collaboration with the opposition has already appointed a neutral CEC to ensure free, fair elections.

Pakistan: Secondary schools lack basic facilities

The government boys’ secondary schools monitored in September lacked basic facilities like libraries, playgrounds, physical training instructors, staffrooms and apparatus for science experiments, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report. The report released on Wednesday said FAFEN monitors collected data from 118 secondary schools in 73 districts. They found 37% schools without libraries; 35% having no playgrounds; 25% not having physical training instructors; 20% lacking staffrooms and 21% not possessing science apparatus. Despite these shortcomings, the findings suggested some positives. Up to 98% schools operated out of proper buildings, 86% had boundary walls and classrooms of 97% of them were clean. Ninety-seven percent schools had electricity with 89% having fans; 96% percent had desks and benches/chairs for students while 97% had them for teachers. Moreover, services of peons were available in 98% schools; cleaners (94%) and watchmen (84%). As for teaching staff, 9% positions lay vacant – Sindh (17%), Balochistan (7%) and Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (6% each). However, the situation was slightly better for non-teaching staff with only 6% positions unoccupied. Of these 11% were in Punjab, Balochistan (8%) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh (3% each). The students-per-teacher ratio was satisfactory (26) and well below the government-set limit of 50 for high schools. Punjab had the highest ratio (27), followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (26), Sindh (22), Balochistan (20) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (15). The monitors reported low government oversight of these schools. The July-September quarter saw only 26 visits – Punjab (13), Sindh (7) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (6). The Executive District Officers/Education made the most visits (15) followed by government officials other than EDOs (9) and an MPA and another elected representative (one each).

European Parliament slams Pakistan for HR abuse

The European Parliament has slammed Pakistan for its "grave human rights abuses" and raised concern over the "pathetic condition" of the girl child in that country as it condemned the attack on Malala Yosufzai. It also called for a determined effort by the international community to use its moral, financial and military power to stem the rot that "afflicts certain societies where children have become targets of terrorist organisations like the Taliban which continue to have support and sanctuaries in Pakistan". During a debate organised in the European Parliament on March 26, the members of South Asia Peace Forum (SAPF) highlighted the pathetic condition of the girl child in Pakistan. The emergency debate specially focused on the discrimination against girls in Pakistan with special reference to Malala Yousafzai. "The members of the European Parliament spoke at length about the situation of human right abuses," an official statement said. The debate highlighted the attack in the city of Mingora in which the 15-year-old Malala was targeted. "Malala is widely respected for her work to promote the schooling of girls; something that the Taliban strongly oppose and apparently became the reason for the attack," it said. Malala was shot in her hometown of Mingora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan on October 9 and was flown to Britain two weeks ago for treatment at the Birmingham hospital. Charles Tannock, Member of European Parliament (MEP) during the debate said that, "This is more than just the case of the shooting of one brave girl, but a crisis for the entire Pakistani education system". He added that Pakistani government must take immediate steps to protect students, teachers, schools, and rights defenders at risk of attack and stressed that, "It's time for Pakistani authorities to understand that expressions of outrage alone are inadequate and such attacks will only end if they hold abusers accountable". He said that the people who seek to harm children are nothing but "cowards who fear the rise of their voice". "The members of European Parliament and members of SAPF called for a determined effort by the international community to use its moral, financial and military power to stem the rot that afflicts certain societies where children have become targets of terrorist organisations like the Taliban which continue to have support and sanctuaries in Pakistan," the statement said.

Peshawar to have model child protection institute soon

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Commission would set up an institute in the provincial capital soon where children at risk would be provided shelter, counselling and other needed support, said an official. Mohammad Ijaz Khan, deputy chief child protection and welfare officer, told Dawn that the commission was going to set up a child protection institute in Peshawar by end of November. “Funds have been allocated for the purpose,” he said. The building of the institute, constructed on Dalazak Road over a 13-kanal piece of land, would have two separate hostels for male and female children. About 70 boys and 30 girls could be accommodated in the hostels, the official said. “It will be a model child protection institute where children (below the age of 18 years) would be provided shelter and rehabilitation facilities,” said Mr Khan. He said that staff, qualified to deal with children at risk, would be hired for the institute. The children at risk including beggars, orphans and those who are trapped by criminal gangs as well as the children referred by court will be provided shelter at the institute. “If in the long run they need permanent shelter, these children will be referred to the orphanages run by the social welfare department,” the official said. He said that the commission, set up under Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010, became functional in May 2011 and received more than 4,000 cases of children at risk. The data was complied with the help of eight child protection units working in Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Kohat, Charsadda, Abbottabad, Buner and Swat districts. Mr Khan said that most of the problems were related to out-dated customs and violence resulting in violation of child rights. Forced child marriage of girls was also a serious issue, he said, adding that cases of corporal punishments were also reported. “Anybody from community or a child at risk can inform these units at the helpline 1121 and the unit’s team can come and collect the child caught in some problem,” the official said. He said that most of the children, who were at risk or faced some problem, would be protected and provided counselling at the institute. “We feel that best place for a child is his home and his family so we would focus on their rehabilitation and reunion with their families,” Mr Khan said. He said that the institute would be a bit different from other institutions run by the social welfare department for children as it would be a model institute. The official said that the commission came to know that many institutes run by the government and non-governmental organisations had no standing operating procedures. Every institute like orphanages, beggar welfare homes and shelter homes had its own procedure, he added. “We are devising a uniform standing operating procedure for all the government and private institutions dealing with issues of children,” he said. The official added that the commission was actively monitoring policies affecting children and it was also its task to make efforts to implement laws related to basic rights of children. Mr Khan said that the commission was going to bring uniformity and accountability by making registration mandatory for all such government and private institutes. The commission would issue them No Objection Certificate, necessary for them to operate, he added. The commission would ensure that all the institutions dealing with children had uniform rules and standards, said Mr Khan.

Peshawar: Pabbi girls demand furniture for college

Parents of Government Girls Degree College students on Tuesday appealed to provincial to provide the college with classroom furniture as the students were currently sitting on the floors. . They said that while the government was claiming it was spending billions of rupees on education, their college did not even have chairs for students. They said that it seems that the money claimed to be used on education is being misused somewhere else.

Karachi:Call for army to takeover

Editorial: Frontier Post
No doubt that the situation in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan and the country’s economic capital, continues to deteriorate as target killing, extortion and kidnappings for ransom are rampant despite all assurances by the provincial government, police and Sindh Rangers, and the environment for smooth business is totally absent, yet the plea taken by the business on Monday involving the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the city should be handed over to the army even for a short period of four to six weeks, cannot be supported for reasons. First it is a negation of democratic norms that all stakeholders have kept intact despite odds. Secondly, the army is already engaged in more important task of cleansing tribal agencies of extremists and terrorists who have again raised their ugly head with vociferous mischief of challenging the writ of the state. Therefore, deploying them is Karachi would mean diverting army’s attention from the more important issue of salvaging the country from a stinking impasse.Why it is always necessary to call in army to mend the wrong of the civil administration, be it earthquake or floods as the civil administration always lays off its hand showing its inability to take up the various challenges. And thirdly, law and order is the exclusive responsibility of the government of Sindh and only the provincial administration is obliged to rectify its national wrongs and give the citizen a right to live and live peacefully. Karachi’s business community on Monday resolved in favour of a strike, by although a divided vote. No-one can refute the community’s allegations and fear, yet a degree of acceptability has to be ensured. Karachi is probably heading for still worse in the wake of at least 10 people dying daily on an average due to rampant target killing and snipers firing. The strike call was endorsed by the President of Pak-Indo Chamber of Commerce SM Muneer who also insisted on the deployment of army. A call for strike is the legitimate right of the business community but nothing beyond that should be demanded or accepted. However, one group, which met governor Isharatul Ibad and accepted his assurance once again, is opposed to the strike call. Developing from land mafias, the city is in the grip of more mafias that have, of late, pinpointed traders, industrialists and other business persons who are facing serious threats from extortionists and receiving bullets and hand grenades for non-payment of “Bhata”(Extortion money). As such the call for strike and deployment of army appears to be the agony of a frustrated mind when the mainstream industry of Pakistan is badly suffering’ industrial units are closing down and investment is being shifted elsewhere. Political parties, especially the ruling coalition partners Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who were supposed to restore peace and create an environment of business and other socio-political activities seem to have become helpless and redundant. But not only the two coalition partners, all political parties owe the blame of not contributing to political steps that are necessary and required to bring Karachi back to normalcy. Who does not know the emergence of mafias? They were once the blue eyed groups of political activists patronized by a host of political organizations and are now conducting themselves like Frankenstein for their patrons. It was generally believed about a decade ago that Karachi’s problem stems out from political waywardness. The things might have changed in gravity; but this remains a political issue and its resolution also lies in skillful political craftsmanship. However, a strong political will is still the answer and if all the stakeholders demonstrate the desire for peace in the troubles city and also the will, a solution can still be found.

Pakistan: Country’s image tarnished by 1990 elections

Radio Pakistan
Information Minister urges PML (N) leadership to pay respect to Supreme Court's verdicts and face investigation. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that those involved in subverting people's mandate in the 1990 general elections should apologize to the nation. In an interview‚ he said the country's image was tarnished by rigging the elections. He said elections were totally maneuvered by agencies. The Minister said that in the past‚ the PML (N) had come into power through rigging and the Supreme Court verdict in the Asghar Khan has proved this reality. He urged PML(N) leadership to pay respect to the court's verdicts and face investigation. To a question‚ he said that action against those involved in misusing the public money would be taken according to the law. The Minister said that Islami Jamhori Itehad was formed by the generals and the establishment. He said when the PPP came into power in 2008‚ the country was confronted with a host of problems‚ inlcuding terrorism and power load-shedding. The government initiated several steps to steer the country out of the crises.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New York's subways swamped after Sandy

Gov. Christie Mourns Loss of Life and Shore Icons

Visibly exhausted and somewhat breathless from a tour of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey took a few minutes on Tuesday evening to take stock of what was lost and mourn what he said could not be replaced. The vacation spots and haunts of his youth along the Jersey Shore were gone, he said. The roller-coaster and the log flume and the little kiosk that sold sausage and peppers were washed away. The piers and boardwalks where he took his children on vacation and where he was recorded shouting down a critic, ice cream cone in hand, were now buried in muck. “We’ll rebuild it,” he said in an evening news conference. “But for those of us who are my age, it will not be the same. Many of the iconic things are gone, washed into the ocean.” Thankfully, Mr. Christie said, the loss of life was minimal. At least six people died in the storm, he said, killed primarily by falling trees. About 1,000 people had been rescued from flooded regions, and 4,500 people remained in shelters, he said. Thousands remained without potable water, and as many as 2.6 million people had no power, he said. But by Tuesday evening electricity had been restored at Newark Liberty International Airport, and the Garden State Parkway had reopened — with tolls reinstated. The governor would not venture to guess what the cost of recovery would be: “We’ll be talking about numbers with a ‘B,’ ” he said. But he said federal money and private insurance would ensure that the burdens on the state budget would be minimal. “Today was a day of sorrow, and we need to feel that,” Mr. Christie said. “But as long as sorrow does not replace resilience, we’ll be fine.”

Aerial view of New Jersey destruction

Obama To Visit Storm-Ravaged New Jersey as Death Toll Mounts
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the storm-battered state of New Jersey Wednesday to view damage with the governor and thank emergency workers struggling to cope with the disaster. The visit, announced Tuesday by the White House, comes as a vast army of rescue and utility workers confront the wreckage from Hurricane Sandy. The storm hit the New Jersey shore late Monday as a powerful tropical storm, causing massive flooding, raging fires and power outages that crippled the New York metropolitan area. The storm, which stalked the East Coast for days before coming ashore, has killed at least 43 people. Earlier Tuesday, the president declared "major disasters" in New York and New Jersey, freeing up federal funds aimed at off-setting billions of dollars in East Coast property damage. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said many of the city's flooded subway tunnels are closed, and warned that the city faces days, if not weeks, of storm recovery challenges. "The damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive and it will not be repaired overnight. The two biggest challenges facing our city going forward are getting our mass transit system up and running and restoring power," said Bloomberg. Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled Tuesday for a second day in a row, marking the first time since 1888 that trading has been suspended for two consecutive days because of weather. It will open on schedule Wednesday. In neighboring New Jersey, a possible berm breach has caused flooding in several towns, forcing at least 800 people to evacuate. Also, a New Jersey nuclear power plant declared an alert after waters rose to a designated high-level mark. Officials said there were no safety concerns at the plant, which was shut off for maintenance. In a news conference, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said a popular vacation destination in his state has been hit hard. "The level of devastation at the Jersey shore is unthinkable," said Christie. VOA's Daniela Schrier took her camera to the East Village district in Lower Manhattan Monday night to document the damage from flood waters rushing city streets.

President Obama Signs New Jersey Disaster Declaration

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of New Jersey and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts due to Hurricane Sandy beginning on October 26, 2012, and continuing. The President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael J. Hall as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area. FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed. FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Republican New Jersey Governor Christie praises Obama

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a fierce critic of Barack Obama, praised the president and the federal government's response as the brutal storm Sandy swept through his state and caused widespread damage and power outages. Christie has attacked Obama repeatedly on the campaign trail and said the Democrat does not deserve a second term in the White House, instead backing Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the November 6 election. But on Tuesday, just hours after the worst of the once-hurricane knocked out power for 2.4 million people in the state just south of New York City, Christie applauded Obama and his administration's Federal Emergency Management Agency in interviews on nearly every major television network. "The federal government response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally," he told NBC's "Today" program. "The president has been outstanding in this. The folks at FEMA ... have been excellent," said Christie, once thought to be a contender for the White House or Romney's vice presidential pick. The governor's praise comes just a week ahead of the presidential election, with polls showing the race as a dead heat. The monster storm has caused havoc up and down the East Coast, forcing Obama and Romney to suspend their campaigns for two days. On "CBS This Morning," Christie said he spoke with Obama three times on Monday as the storm hit. Obama on Monday declared New Jersey a major disaster area so the state can quickly receive federal aid. "I can't thank the president enough for that," Christie told CBS.

U.S.: Race is tied, but most think Obama will win: Reuters/Ipsos poll

The U.S. presidential race remains a dead heat one week before Election Day but most Americans think President Barack Obama will defeat Republican Mitt Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released on Tuesday. Obama leads Romney among likely voters by 47 percent to 46 percent, a statistically insignificant margin, the online survey found. Neither candidate has held a clear lead since early October. But 53 percent of all registered voters predicted Obama would win the November 6 election, while only 29 percent said Romney would be the victor. A majority also said that they expected Obama to win their state. That reflects the opinion of many analysts and pollsters who say Obama holds a tactical advantage in the state-by-state battle to win the White House. Because Obama starts off with a greater likely number of states' electoral votes, Romney must win a higher number of the seven to 10 states that remain truly competitive. Obama also holds an advantage among the 22 percent who said they have already cast their ballots. Some 55 percent of this group said they had voted for Obama, while 40 percent said they had voted for Romney. The four-day poll was not affected in a significant way by Hurricane Sandy because only a small fraction of the 3,293 interviews were completed after the storm hit on Monday afternoon, Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. Some other polls have suspended their activity due to the storm. The accuracy of Reuters/Ipsos polling is calculated using a credibility interval. In this survey, the credibility interval is 3.4 percentage points for likely voters and 2.9 percentage points for all registered voters.

After Sandy, Bill Clinton rails against Romney on global warming
President Obama has temporarily suspended his campaign events in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, but former President Bill Clinton hit the trail on his behalf in Minnesota today and used the storm to explain why the president should be re-elected. Speaking before a crowd of students at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Mr. Clinton recalled watching "the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney" in the first presidential debate.
"He ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically efficient ways," Mr. Clinton said, adding that Romney said to the president mockingly, "You're going to turn back the seas." (While energy policy did come up in the debates, Romney never said that). Mr. Clinton continued, "In my part of America, we would've liked it if somebody could've done that yesterday." The former president noted that cities like New York have to implement policies to prepare for the changing climate and said, "In the real world, Barack Obama's policies work better." Specifically, Mr. Clinton criticized Romney for opposing tax credits for wind and solar energy, noting that 175,000 Americans are employed in those sectors. Wind and solar jobs are "good, middle-class jobs," Mr. Clinton said, while the United States has one of the world's highest capacities for wind and solar energy. "Why in the world would we walk away from that?" he asked. The former president was making two campaign stops today at college campuses in Minnesota. The state should be a safe one for Mr. Obama, but the most recent poll there shows the president with just a three-point lead as Romney gains ground. Mr. Clinton told the students the election is about "three big questions": which candidate is more likely to restore prosperity to the middle class, which is more likely to build a 21st century economy, and which candidate is more likely to keep the nation on the road towards a more perfect union. "Amidst all of our differences, on those questions I don't think it's a close question," he continued. "Despite his 11th hour conversion to moderate rhetoric in the debates, Gov. Romney has not changed his position on the fundamental issues or his fundamental argument against the president." Mr. Clinton took on Romney's promise to create 12 million jobs over the next four years, pointing out that independent analysts predict the economy, as long as it keeps moving in the right direction, should produce 12 million new jobs anyway. "In other words, the argument is throw this guy out for the 12 million jobs that his policies made possible," he said. "I think the guy who should be at the helm is the person whose policies created those jobs to give us a more perfect union."

At least 38 dead, millions without power in Sandy's aftermath

Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without electricity, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The U.S. death toll climbed to 38, many of the victims killed by falling trees. The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds. "We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie said. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point." More than 8.2 million people across the East were without power. Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights around the world, and it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they're going. The storm also disrupted the presidential campaign with just a week to go before Election Day. President Barack Obama canceled a third straight day of campaigning, scratching events scheduled for Wednesday in swing state Ohio. Republican Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a "storm relief event." Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, was among the hardest-hit areas after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways. Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen on Wednesday. A huge fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues. Three people were injured. New York University's Tisch Hospital evacuated 200 patients after its backup generator failed. About 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit were carried down staircases and were given battery-powered respirators. A construction crane that collapsed in the high winds on Monday still dangled precariously 74 floors above the streets of midtown Manhattan, and hundreds of people were evacuated as a precaution. And on Staten Island, a tanker ship wound up beached on the shore. With water standing in two major commuter tunnels and seven subway tunnels under the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was unclear when the nation's largest transit system would be rolling again. It shut down Sunday night ahead of the storm. Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the damage was the worst in the 108-year history of the New York subway. The saltwater surge inundated subway signals, switches and the electrified third rails, and covered tracks with sludge. Workers began pumping the water out and will ultimately have to walk the hundreds of miles of track to inspect it. Millions of more fortunate New Yorkers surveyed the damage as dawn broke, their city brought to an extraordinary standstill. "Oh, Jesus. Oh, no," Faye Schwartz said she looked over her neighborhood in Brooklyn, where cars were scattered like leaves. Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison near the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers. "It's totaled," Thomas said with a shrug. "You would have needed a boat last night." Most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as were schools, Broadway theaters and the metropolitan area's three main airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark. "This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City. Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles east of Pittsburgh, pushing westward with winds of 45 mph, and was expected to make a turn into New York State on Tuesday night. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. In a measure of the storm's immense size and power, waves on southern Lake Michigan rose to a record-tying 20.3 feet. High winds spinning off Sandy's edges clobbered the Cleveland area early Tuesday, uprooting trees, cutting power to hundreds of thousands, closing schools and flooding major roads along Lake Erie. In Portland, Maine, gusts topping 60 mph scared away several cruise ships and prompted officials to close the port. Sandy also brought blizzard conditions to parts of West Virginia and neighboring Appalachian states, with more than 2 feet of snow expected in some places. A snowstorm in western Maryland caused a pileup of tractor-trailers that blocked part of Interstate 68 on slippery Big Savage Mountain. "It's like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs up here," said Bill Wiltson, a Maryland State Police dispatcher. The death toll climbed rapidly, and included 17 victims in New York State -- 10 of them in New York City -- along with five dead in Pennsylvania and four in New Jersey. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. In New Jersey, Sandy cut off barrier islands, swept houses from their foundations and washed amusement pier rides into the ocean. It also wrecked several boardwalks up and down the coast, tearing away a section of Atlantic City's world-famous promenade. A huge swell of water swept over the small New Jersey town of Moonachie, near the Hackensack River, and authorities struggled to rescue about 800 people, some living in a trailer park. And in neighboring Little Ferry, water suddenly started gushing out of storm drains overnight, submerging a road under 4 feet of water and swamping houses. Police and fire officials used boats and trucks to reach the stranded. "I looked out and the next thing you know, the water just came up through the grates. It came up so quickly you couldn't do anything about it. If you wanted to move your car to higher ground you didn't have enough time," said Little Ferry resident Leo Quigley, who with his wife was taken to higher ground by boat. Jersey City was closed to cars because traffic lights were out, and Hoboken, just over the Hudson River from Manhattan, was hit with major flooding.