Friday, March 16, 2012

Saint Patrick and the History of St. Patrick's Day

# By Seth Andrea McCoy

If you’re like me with an Irish last name but hardly any Irish in you, St. Patrick's Day is the day you politely tell people that you aren’t wicked excited that it’s St. Patrick’s Day. No offense to those of you who are Irish through and through, or wish you were Irish on March 17.

So what is St. Patrick’s Day all about anyway and why do we celebrate it? Well, according to various sources on the internet, St. Patrick was born in Wales around AD 385. Before becoming St. Patrick he answered to the name Maewyn and, until turning 16, he identified himself as a pagan (no real shocker there, as most people back in those days were pagan). It wasn’t until he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and held as a slave for six years that he turned to God.

After his escape from slavery he went to Gaul and studied in the monastery for 12 years. It was during this time that he came to believe that he must convert pagans to Christianity. For 30 years he traveled through Ireland establishing monasteries and successfully converting pagans to Christianity before dying on March 17 in AD 461.

As I’ve mentioned before, many of our current holidays have their origins in paganism. St. Patrick’s Day is no different, albeit this holiday came about because a former pagan turned to Christianity and in turn worked to convert the people of Ireland to the Church.

There is much folklore about St. Patrick and what he did as he traveled around Ireland converting the pagans. One of these is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. That should not be taken literally, for “snakes” refers to the pagans that he converted to Christianity. Snakes, for those who may not be aware, are symbolic for pagans and if you see someone wearing a snake pin or other piece of snake jewelry on March 17 chances are they are pagan.

He also used the three-leaved clover in his travels as a tool to teach the Irish about the Trinity. Each of the three clover leaves, he would explain, represented the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock was adopted as a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day as a result. Of course there are other symbols of this day including the leprechaun and wearing green, for example.

And did you know that up until 1737, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t celebrated in the United States? That is until our fair city held the first public celebration of St. Patrick. Yup, that’s right, Boston brought St. Patrick’s Day to America. Of course these days most every major city – and some smaller ones – celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with parades and/or other events.

So on this St. Patrick’s Day (and during the weekend festivities) when you’re out and about wearing your “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt and drinking green beer may the luck of the Irish be with you. Please remember to be safe out there and make sure that if you’re drinking you have a designated driver to get you home.

Irish Eyes Are Smiling When Cooking With Beer

A secret ingredient to make your St Patrick's Day dinner more grand is cooking with Irish beer.
Ask an Irishman what makes his Irish eyes smile and he’ll likely say it’s the brew in his glass.

“I love checking out all the Irish beers this time of year,” said South Countian Mark Cobb who spent time this weekend comparing the Irish beer selections featured at Fenton’s Friar Tuck. “My favorites are the Irish red ales. They have a nice malty flavor that tastes great with a plate of corned beef.”

Irish red ales and Ireland’s renowned dry, dark stouts will be the featured drink on countless St Patrick’s Day tables. Each brew processes rich flavors worthy of consideration as an ingredient in everything from soup to a nut-laced chocolate cake. Brewmiesers and chefs agree, almost any recipe that calls for liquid could be replaced with beer.When cooking with beer there are two rules to remember. First, don’t be afraid to experiment. Second, don’t cook with any beer you don’t like drinking. If you don’t like how a beer tastes in a glass you probably won’t like it in your recipe.

I recommend novice beer cooks to begin slowly, using simple recipes first and experimenting slowly by adding beer to gravies, sauces and marinades. To make the flavors meld well in your recipes remember this: always reduce the beer down to help magnify the beer's flavor notes.

To decide which Irish beer to cook with will depend on the flavors you want. Stouts like Guinness and Murphy’s are dark full-flavored brews with coffee notes that complement chocolate while red ales like Smithwick’s have a mellow caramel flavor that is perfect for corned beef. Light, crisp Irish lagers like Harp possess yeasty and citrus flavor notes that are great additions to bread recipes and sauces.

To help decide which beer to buy check out the weekly beer tastings offered weekly at area liquor stores, such as Friar Tuck. Tastings usually are free for those old enough to indulge and provide beer reps on hand to answer questions on beer styles, flavors and pairing options.

St Patrick’s Day is a prefect time to taste, cook and experiment with Irish beers. It's also fun to pair your beers with food. When cooking with beer it's a win-win; simply serve the dishes with the beer added to the recipe. It’s an easy, savvy strategy that doesn’t require the luck of the Irish to pull off.

About this column: Suzanne Corbett is an award-winning writer/producer and culinary teacher, but her passion is as a food historian. She has written for Better Homes & Gardens, and was the radio host of Hot Plates, which aired on KSLG. She is the author of the award winning, "Pushcarts & Stalls: The Soulard Market History Cookbook."

CHINA: Polio-free days lie ahead

China is expected to eradicate new polio cases in October when it finishes vaccinating nearly 30 million people, a senior health official said.

The fourth round of polio immunization will kick off in March to cover about 7 million people, mostly in the western regions, Wang Yu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told China Daily.

That round of vaccinations targets various age groups and "as long as effective vaccines are applied, the outbreak should be well curbed," he said.

"And probably in October, the country will become polio-free again," he said recently.

Polio is an acute infectious viral disease that can cause paralysis of muscles.

On Feb 2, the Ministry of Health ordered health departments nationwide to increase polio vigilance this year and maintain vaccination programs to block outbreaks.

The country must return to polio-free status this year and remain so, it said.

In August 2011, a polio epidemic broke out in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, killing one person and paralyzing 17 others.

The World Health Organization later confirmed that the first three cases came from Pakistan. Xinjiang, which has a population of 21 million, borders three of the world's four major polio-endemic countries - Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The other country is Nigeria.

The outbreak in Xinjiang was the first in China since 1999 when the virus was imported from India, according to the Ministry of Health. China had its last indigenous case in 1994.Authorities launched a mass vaccination program for children and adults, locals and migrant groups including cotton pickers in Xinjiang, a major producer of cotton.

Other regions close to Xinjiang, including Shaanxi province, began to immunize children against the virus as a precaution.

The efforts paid off, and the spread of the outbreak was soon halted.

Some experts called for supporting immunization efforts at grassroots levels. The lack of the support may have played a role in the Xinjiang outbreak, they said.

For years, Xinjiang reported that more than 90 percent of its population was vaccinated against polio, a coverage rate that theoretically would avert an outbreak of polio, said Tao Lina, a researcher with the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The government has fully funded the vaccines, but vaccination work by grassroots health workers was for a long time poorly paid, which might undermine the immunization effort," he said.

After an outbreak, supplementary vaccination could be the only way to halt its spread, but that carries risks, he said.

China uses oral polio vaccine, which is effective, but may cause some recipients to develop polio.

It is no longer recommended in the United States which has been polio-free since the 1960s, said Jeffrey W. McFarland, country director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is based in Beijing.

One out of every 2.4 million users of oral polio vaccine may develop polio from the vaccination, he said.

Police in New York arrest several Occupy protesters

The US police have arrested several 99-percenters who attempted to occupy a Bank of America branch in Manhattan, New York, in protest against home foreclosures and corruption, Press TV reports.

The Thursday arrests were made after the protesters moved to take over the bank by unloading furniture in front of the building.

“Today, the whole point was to stage a home scene inside of Bank of America to call attention to the fact that so many people have lost their homes because of Bank of America’s policies, and because they are able to do this because of support from the American government,” a protester said.

The protesters use the slogan, "We are the 99 percent" to distinguish themselves from the one percent Americans, who are in possession of the greatest portion of the nation's wealth.

The protest was held as part of the nationwide Occupy movement.

The movement owes its inspiration to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests, which began when a group of demonstrators gathered in New York's financial district on September 17, 2011 to protest the excessive influence of big corporations on the US official policies and the high-level corruption in the country.

The police in the US have made thousands of arrests as part of the crackdown on the movement since its emergence.

A rally similar to the one in Manhattan has been held in front of a Bank of America branch in the city of St Louis on the eastern border of the state of Missouri.

Four years ago, the bank received USD 15 billion in bailout fund consisting of taxpayer money in order to stay solvent.

The bank remains a leader in home foreclosures across the country.

Karzai to meet with families of 16 civilians allegedly killed by U.S. soldier

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to meet Friday with the families of 16 civilians allegedly killed by a U.S. soldier during a house-to-house rampage.

Karzai's meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul follows news that he received a report from an investigative team prior to talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The findings of the report were "clearly on his mind" during his Thursday meeting with Panetta, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

It was not immediately known whether Karzai planned to release the findings to the families or the public.The fallout from the alleged killings has further strained tense U.S.-Afghan relations. Karzai called the shootings a cruel act against the people of Afghanistan and told Panetta that Afghans have lost trust in the international force, the presidential palace said in a news release.

Karzai also recommended that American troops withdraw from Afghan villages, the release said.

"The issue of the villages noted in the press release did arise (in the meeting), but it was in the context of a shared commitment" to an agreed upon plan that outlines the time frame for handing over security duties to Afghan forces by 2014, Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters.

The plan, known as the Lisbon Strategy, was adopted during a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November 2010.

Afghans have been demanding the soldier, who was flown out of Afghanistan by the U.S. military, be returned to stand trial, while an Afghan lawmaker accused the United States of showing "a fake video" to convince people that the soldier acted alone.

Muhammad Naim Lalai said he was one of several Afghan officials shown a surveillance video on the soldier's base in Kandahar province.

"We were shown a video in which a soldier climbs the wall of a military base and then goes indoors and pulls his bulletproof jacket off and then puts his arms up to surrender himself," Lalai said.

The United States has not confirmed it showed the video to Afghans, though a U.S. official has confirmed there is footage taken by an "aerial asset" that shows the soldier lying on the ground outside the base and then attempting to "low crawl" back into the outpost.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin Thursday warning that recent events in Afghanistan "could incite homegrown violent extremists in the United States." The document obtained by CNN also says "there is currently no specific, credible threat information" that extremists might strike targets in the United States.The soldier, whose identity has been withheld by the military, is accused of leaving the remote outpost of Camp Belambay on foot early Sunday and heading to neighboring villages outside the base in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province.

In the villages, the soldier opened fire, killing nine children, three women and four men, witnesses and Afghan authorities said. The U.S. military has not confirmed the number of casualties.

The soldier, who is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, belongs to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, according to a congressional source who was not authorized to speak publicly.

He was on his first tour to Afghanistan but had deployed to Iraq three times. In 2010, he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle accident.

"I think it's of interest that we have a soldier who has an exemplary record, a decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq to his brain and to his body, and then despite that, was sent back. I think that's an issue. I think it's a concern," said Seattle attorney John Henry Browne. Browne said he would be representing the soldier and had spoken with him over the phone.

Biden, campaigning for Obama in Ohio, touts auto bailout

Los Angeles Times

For months, President Obama's campaign has searched for an overarching theme for his reelection bid, something to replace the enthusiastic "hope and change" motif of 2008.

On Thursday, the campaign unveiled one and sent Vice President Joe Biden

to the key swing state of Ohio to test it out — framing the election as a choice between "promoting the private sector" and "protecting the privileged sector."

"We are a fair shot, and a fair shake. They're about no rules, no risks and no accountability," Biden said, contrasting the administration with its Republican opponents and taking the rescue of the American auto industry as his central case.

That choice of topics highlighted how much the auto bailout will figure in Obama's campaign. The initiatives the administration regards as its biggest accomplishments — the healthcare law, the economic stimulus, the financial market reforms — all remain unpopular or virtually unnoticed among voters.

The auto industry bailout, by contrast, is highly visible, concrete and of particular note in states like this one.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. GOP strategists believe they're well positioned here, pointing to strong gains they made in 2010.

But Obama strategists hope to slam the door on whoever emerges as the Republican nominee by carrying the state, as Obama did in 2008. Boosted by hiring in its manufacturing sector, much of which feeds the auto industry, Ohio's unemployment rate ticked down to 7.7% last month, from 9% a year earlier.

Chrysler, one of the beneficiaries of the 2009 rescue plan, announced in November that it planned to invest $500 million in its Toledo plant and add a second shift by the second half of 2013 that will result in 1,100 additional jobs.

Beyond the immediate economic impact of the bailout, Biden connected it with a personality trait in Obama that strategists believe voters respond to and which they plan to play up: toughness.

"This man has a spine of steel," Biden said.

"We all want a president with the courage of his convictions. He made the tough call. And the verdict is in: President Obama was right and they were dead wrong," he said, listing by name each of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama and drawing cheers from an audience of United Auto Workers union members.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, he reminded the crowd, wrote a now-famous op-ed piece as Obama was mulling whether to rescue the auto companies. Romney called for a managed bankruptcy with bridge loans financed by the private sector, not taxpayers.

"Any honest expert will tell you in 2009, no one was lining up to lend General Motors or Chrysler any money or, for that matter, lend money to anybody. That includes Bain Capital," Biden said, referring to the financial firm Romney once ran.

The GOP opposition to the auto rescue, Biden argued, showed the "fundamentally different economic philosophy" between Republicans and the administration, and is a "cautionary tale" about how they would run the government if returned to power.

The Romney campaign shot back, referring to a statement Biden made in 2007 in which he questioned whether Obama was ready to be president. "He was right," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. Obama "has devastated the middle class by failing to live up to his promises."

With the pro-Democratic crowd here, Romney's arguments got little traction.

"He can say what he wants," Debbie Brakke, who works at GM's local transmission plant, said of Romney. "I probably wouldn't have a job today if it wasn't for them."

Brakke's 27-year employment at GM was interrupted in 2008 when she was laid off at the height of the economic crisis. She's now back at work, and the company is still hiring.

Biden's speech came as part of a larger ramping up of the reelection campaign that included the release of a documentary-style video looking back at the first three years of Obama's presidency.

Obama, meanwhile, is also injecting politics into what are ostensibly policy speeches. Speaking in suburban Washington on Thursday, the president chided Republicans for energy policy views that he said qualified them for the "Flat Earth Society."

But Biden is being dispatched in a more explicit campaign role to push the argument in a way that strategists feel is too aggressive for the president to do this early. Instead, Biden will play the traditional running mate role of attack dog, particularly in the industrial states where he spent much of his time in the 2008 campaign.

"I'm back, you're back and the industry's back!" Biden declared to the enthusiastic crowd, which sported Obama 2012 signs and one that read "Buckeyes for Biden."

In his two months as Obama's running mate in 2008, Biden held 21 events in Ohio alone, and he figures to be a regular visitor again this year.

"He's comfortable here, and we're comfortable with him — he speaks our language," Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the area's longtime congresswoman, said after the event. Biden's message on the economy, and specifically to the middle class, speaks "to the center part of the heart of people in this region of the country."

"They are completely on task," she said.

George Clooney meets with Obama, rules out higher office … for now?

George Clooney brought a dash of glamour Thursday to Washington—long mocked as "Hollywood for ugly people"—as he emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama and discussed the crisis in South Sudan, Obama's re-election prospects, "Kony 2012" and how long he'll keep the beard.

Surrounded by reporters in the sun-drenched White House driveway, Clooney also took a question on whether he might consider joining the administration.

"I don't find that I would be much help in any other position than the one I am in," he said, pouring cold water on the prospect there could one day be an Undersecretary Clooney.

"I don't make policy. All I can really do is amplify the situation and hope to bring a spotlight to it so that we're talking about it for at least a brief period of time," added Clooney, a fervent advocate for helping South Sudan.

How do Obama's elections prospects look?

"I don't know. I hope they're very good. I'm a Democrat and I'm a supporter of the president. So I hope he has a successful election," Clooney said.

Asked about the controversial Kony 2012 video—a viral, 30-minute documentary on guerrilla leader Joseph Kony that chronicles the atrocities of his Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa—Clooney said he had not yet seen it but gave the effort a thumbs-up.

"Anytime you're making the names of people who are charged for war crimes famous, I think that's good. I think the name Omar al-Bashir should be famous. I think people should know it," he said, referring to Sudan's president, who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court in the Hague in connection to atrocities committed in his country's western region of Darfur.

Clooney—who was flanked by human rights activist John Prendergast—said he talked with Obama about the urgent humanitarian needs in South Sudan and emphasized the urgent need for the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to ensure deliveries of aid to populations at risk for starvation.

"There is a very, very great possibility of … a lot of people starving to death in the next few months if we don't act soon finding some way to get the government of Khartoum to open up some form of a humanitarian corridor," he warned. "Obviously that's not something that we do unilaterally—it will have to be done with the help of many different countries."

And he described Obama as optimistic about getting Chinese President Hu Jintao to help. China normally imports roughly 6 percent of its oil from Sudan, but the president of independent South Sudan, which holds most of the country's reserves, recently shut off the spigot as a negotiating tactic amid disputes with the north about borders, oil revenues and alleged human rights abuses.

"For a moment, there is a moment that we can appeal to China—not on a humanitarian issue, which, a lot of us have gone to China and tried to do and it has oftentimes fallen on deaf ears," Clooney said.The actor, a founder of the Satellite Sentinel project to monitor alleged atrocities in Sudan, said he saw some "donor fatigue" with regards to the crisis in Sudan.

"Anytime the economy is going through a difficult time there will always be donor fatigue. There is no question that there is donor fatigue. There is misery fatigue. I think people turn on the news, and they see an awful lot of bad stories, and they think, Oh, this is another terrible story,'" Clooney said.

"On the other hand, having traveled around the world, and having tried to raise money in other parts of the world, this is still the most generous country in the world, and truly the most compassionate," Clooney went on to say.

So, a journalist wanted to know, how long will he keep the beard?

That drew a chuckle from Clooney, who sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama at Wednesday's state dinner at the White House in honor of visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha.

"I have to buy a new razor now."

PPP considers its workers as assets

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said Pakistan Peoples Party considers its workers as its asset and greatly values them.
Addressing the office bearers of PPP workers at the Bahawalpur Airport Lounge, Gilani said PPP did not believe in the politics of revenge, adding that there was no political prisoner in the country at present.
Gilani said the government had introduced a revenge free political culture.
The Prime Minister said supremacy of parliament and free judiciary were the result of democracy and in accordance with the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
He said the government believed in the freedom of judiciary and media and wanted to strengthen the institutions.
He said 1973 constitution had been revived while President Asif Ali Zardari had rendered his powers to the parliament.
Gilani said PPP government gave constitution to the country and also restored it later.
Prime Minister said Pakistan is a strong country and is in safe hands. He mentioned that record development had been done in the country including the Bahawalpur city.
He said, “We want Seraiki assembly rather than an administrative unit.”
Earlier, Federal Minister and President PPP Southern Punjab Makhdoom Shahab-ud-Din, President PPP Bahawalpur District Shakir Mirza, Arif Aziz Sheikh MNA, MPA and Secretary Information PPP Southern Punjab Shaukat Basra, President High Court Bar Bahawalpur Muhammad Sharif Bhatti, General Secretary High Court Bar Bahawalpur A.R Aurangzaib, General Secretary PPP Bahawalpur district Muhammad Ali Ahsan and Secretary Information PPP Bahawalpur Saleem Bhatti welcomed Prime Minister and apprised him with the problems of the area.

PML-N is politically dead

Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly, Raja Riaz lashed out against Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday, calling the party “politically dead”.

Riaz, while talking to the media inside the assembly, said that the PML-N’s claim of Mehrangate scandal being reopened as part of a conspiracy by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is in contempt of the court. “The chief justice should take notice of it.”

Riaz further said that the names of PML-N leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif will be erased from history because of their corruption.

He called on Shahbaz to take an oath in the Punjab Assembly that he has not taken any money or he should resign, and added that it would be better if the party leaders issue an apology and returned the money with interest.

Mehran Bank scandal: Reining in the agencies


In recent days, the Mehrangate case has helped to focus minds on the role of the intelligence agencies. Nothing sums up this role better than Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s remark during the proceedings that all the (intelligence) agencies were operating beyond their mandate. This truth has been the stuff of urban legend for as long as memory serves. However, there comes a time when tyranny must meet its comeuppance. Whatever is coming out during the case is only the tip of the iceberg. While Naseerullah Babar and Asad Durrani’s statements in-camera before the Supreme Court (SC) may be revealed after the Attorney General said he had no objection to the same, the inquiry reports into the Habib Bank and Mehran Bank scandals will only be presented after the interior secretary returns to the country. Younis Habib, the main actor in the drama, has filed counter-affidavits to those of General (retd) Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani, praying for a commission of inquiry into the whole affair. That makes little sense when the SC is seized of the matter and making efforts to get to the bottom of things. The court rightly forbade Younis Habib from giving TV interviews during the pendency of the case. The PML-N, meantime, according to Shahbaz Sharif, will sue Younis Habib for defamation for deposing in the court that Shahbaz and Nawaz Sharif were among the beneficiaries of the funds doled out in the affair. The moral indignation against the PPP’s alleged corruption by the Punjab chief minister however, smacks of an effort to divert attention from these embarrassing revelations and is questionable on the grounds that there are very few politicians clean enough to enjoy the high moral ground in this regard. Meanwhile the sensational revelation that the PPP withdrew Rs 270 million from the Intelligence Bureau’s secret funds to influence the loyalties of PML-N MPAs during the brief governor’s rule in 2009 bears investigation. To add to the general picture of skulduggery, further revelations have been made about the use of Mehran Bank funds to topple Sabir Shah’s PML-N government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the PPP in the past.

Both the Senate and the National Assembly have lately been agitating the need to set up parliamentary committees to probe the issue of missing persons and the role of the agencies in the matter. While the intent of the parliamentarians cannot be decried, the reaction of missing persons’ campaigner Amna Janjua expresses scepticism whether parliamentary resolutions and committees can do much to change the situation on the ground. Naturally the litmus test is whether parliamentary oversight can rein in the penchant of the agencies to operate outside the parameters of any law, and virtually as a law unto themselves, without fear of accountability and the confidence of longstanding impunity. When the matter of the number of missing persons is yet to be settled, with estimates ranging from 49 (Rehman Malik) to 6,000 (Balochistan Liberation Army), how can effective redress according to the law be achieved? The missing persons commission too has been unable to resolve this conundrum so far. Partly the vastly differing estimates may be because many of the families of missing persons are reluctant to approach the authorities out of a mixture of fear and lack of confidence in the possibility of receiving justice. But there may also be an effort on the part of the authorities to underestimate the numbers to depreciate the seriousness of the problem. It would seem to be in the fitness of things and in the interests of justice for the missing persons commission to get to the truth about the number of missing persons with an authoritative listing, before the authorities and the intelligence community can be pressurised to produce these unfortunate souls and move on to providing them and their families due process.

Whether it is manipulation and distortion of the political process through bribing politicians of easy virtue or making people disappear, it is certain that the intelligence agencies are a wild bronco unrestrained by any considerations of the law or humanity. The sooner they are reined in to operate within their mandate, which should be elucidated through legislation and rules, the quicker the wounds of their ‘endeavours’ may be healed, not the least within Balochistan. Normal democratic political processes and due process are the only way Pakistan can put this nightmare behind it.

Lahore: Dengue back work

Some 60 patients with dengue symptoms have been admitted in Lahore’s different hospitals as the deadly mosquito-borne disease has reemerged in Punjab. Without waiting for a complete end to the winter season, the deadly mosquitoes are back to their job, breeding in ponds of water and spreading the deadly fever with their bites, a private news channel reported. “No need to be afraid of the dengue fever. A timely diagnosis can save the patient’s life,” Doctor Hammad, Assistant Professor of Ganga Ram Hospital said.
With medics urging people to adopt precautionary measures, the Punjab government claims to have taken sufficient steps to prevent the disease from spreading by setting up special wards in hospitals. Moreover, the provincial health department is organising a three-day international conference on dengue on Tuesday, which officials said, would be attended by doctors from more than 70 countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Singapore.

Great Pashto poet-philosopher Ghani Khan remembered

The Frontier Post

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information and Public Relations Mian Iftikhar Hussain paid rich tributes to the great Pashto philosopher, intellectual and poet Khan Abdul Ghani Khan and said that he was a national hero of the Pathans possessing all the virtues of a gentleman.
We all, he added were proud of him and this belt could not give birth to such a genius.
This he expressed while addressing at his 16th death anniversary at Nishtar Hall on Thursday.
ANP Provincial President Senator Afrasiab Khattak also addressed the gathering. Provincial Ministers; Syed Aqil Shah, Sardar Hussain Babak, Lady MPAs; Munawar Sultana, Tabasum Katozai, ANP’s Provincial Vice Presidents Tajuddin and Kamila Khan Miankhel, Provincial General Secretary, Arbab Tahir, Secretary Department of Culture and Information, Azmat Hanif Orakzai, notables, intellectuals from all over the province poets, man of letters, Ghani Khan lovers and a large number of ANP stalwarts and office bearers were present on the occasion.
Holy Quran was recited to facilitate and give comfort to the soul of late Ghani Khan.
Prof. Abasin Yousafzai, Prof. Danish and Bashir Pakhtunyar through their poems paid poetic rich tributes to late Ghani Khan.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that late Khan Abdul Ghani Khan was a moth of the motherland and nation and love with country and nation is the source of his poetry.
He said that though Ghani Khan has died physically but he is alive ideologically and will remain alive. He said that no stone will be left unturned for generalizing thinking and thoughts of late Ghani Khan.
The Minister Information said that late Ghani Khan worked for social justice and taught us the lesson to love mankind and hatred against unjust compulsion and barbarism.
Special function will be held at Ghani Dheri alongwith two days mela of international level at Islamabad.
To publicize thoughts of Ghani Khan, Mian Iftikahr termed Abdur Rahman Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak, Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari and Ghani Khan four pillars of the pashto poetry and literature.
Expressing his deep sorrow over the murder of SP Rural Kalam Khan at Pishtakharra on the Thursday morning, he lauded the services of the martyred police officer and said that he was a bold and brave police officer, who was targeted because of successful operations against terrorists in the suburbs of Peshawar particularly Mathani and Badhber.
However, he announced that blood of Kalam Khan and such other martyrs will not go wasted and terrorists will be taken into hand and Jihad against terrorists will remain continued till our last breath.

President Zardari’s intervention sought against forcible conversions

A US lawmaker has written to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari asking him to look into the matter of the ’’forcible conversion’’ of a Hindu girl and ensure her safe return to her family.

In a strongly-worded letter, dated March 12, Brad Sherman, a lawmaker from California urged Zardari to take steps to ensure that those responsible for such acts are held accountable.

"I urge you to take action to ensure the safe return of this girl to her family," Sherman said in his letter to Zardari, referring to the case of a Hindu girl named Rinkel Kumari, who was allegedly abducted from her home in Mirpur Mathelo, in Sindh, PTI reported.

Sherman said Rinkel’s family has alleged that she abducted on February 24, forced to marry a Muslim man named Naveed Shah and convert to Islam.

"Rinkel was reportedly held in custody with the help of Mian Mohammad Aslam, the son of Pakistan People’s Party Member of National Assembly Mian Mitho in Bharchundi Shareef, where she was forced to marry a Muslim man and convert to Islam," he said in the letter.

On February 25, Rinkel was brought before a civil judge, who ruled in favour of Naveed Shah and she was taken into custody for two days at Sukkur police station, the Congressman said.

"Rinkel was allegedly threatened with violence while in police custody to make her change her statement," he claimed.

He said on February 27, Rinkel appeared in court again and this time her relatives were reportedly not allowed inside the court. During this second hearing, Rinkel was returned to Naveed Shah’s custody.

"Rinkel’s family is unaware of the whereabouts of their daughter," Sherman said in his letter. "Unfortunately Rinkel Kumari’s case is just one case of abduction and forced religious conversion in Pakistan. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), around 20-25 forced kidnappings and conversions of Hindu girls in Sindh every month.

"I urge you to take all necessary steps to bring an end to this practice and other harassment of Hindus in Pakistan," Sherman said.

Rinkle has reportedly told a court that she voluntarily converted and married a Muslim man. Sherman’s letter comes in the wake of the campaign by the Sindhi American Political Action Committee, a lobby group for the Sindhi community in the US.

Apple launches new iPad in Japan


Apple today launched its third-generation iPad in Japan. Not long after a series of incidents marring the iPhone 4S’ launch in China, its neighbour received a smooth welcome from queuing customers.

Lines had been forming overnight with eager campers outside of Tokyo’ Shibuya and Ginza stores. According to Apple store staff, some customers had even been waiting for two nights just to get in first.

Was it worth the wait?

Well, they needn’t have worried. Although tumultuous launches of the iPhone 4S in Hong Kong and mainland China might have set people on edge over potentially uncontrollable crowds and scalpers, such concerns were virtually invisible in Tokyo.

A small handful of security guards waited outside, but they were mostly enjoying the sunshine rather than worrying about crowd control.

Within an hour of opening the doors, the queues were already dissipated, with more than 400 customers already served by 9.30 am.Previous launch disasters have warned Apple to make sure they are well equipped for dealing with heavy numbers. Ginza, the first international Apple retail store, had four floors and a streamlined system in place to make sure that customers were served and out of the door in time for work.

To take the pressure off staff, the queuing customers had been issued cards specifying exactly which product, model, and contract they required.

It was a simple way to quickly cart customers to the right place, but also to keep an eye on stock and avoid any embarrassing problems. I’m not sure if this practice will happen in other locations such as the U.S., and more importantly China, but the Japanese are nothing if not patient and orderly.

Assume crash positions?

Around 250 staff and salespeople were on the floor this morning; practically one member of staff for every customer. It showed. When the crowds died down the staff far outnumbered customers, and many were just waiting for the next lunch rush.

One member of staff told me that the launch — so far — was “not as crazy” as when the iPhone 4S went on sale in October. Considering they launched this new product midweek, staff were all gearing up for another sudden bolt at the end of the working day.

I must admit I was surprised at first by how quiet it seemed on the streets. But as lunch started to roll in, so did the crowds, and by the time I left the store standing space was getting sparse.

See iPad, buy iPad, set up iPad.

On top of the standard sales floors and display products, the Ginza store also had a theatre floor, with demonstrations helping each customer in how set up their brand new iPad. I saw several eager consumers in their seats setting up their new gadget when it was still in the box.To avoid a cluster, all the contracts were sent straight to the top floor, with around 30 units working at any given time. Sales staff said that the average waiting time to set up a contract this morning was around half an hour, but that customers who had opted for the Wi-Fi model had basically been straight in and out.

Apple retail staff declined to say which was the more popular model. The top floor, they said, is “the family room”. Under today’s extraordinary circumstances it was dominated by contract customers, with only a small round table of games set up to entertain any poor children dragged along to the launch.

Interestingly, almost every member of staff working today was bilingual, and I was surprised by just how many non-Japanese faces I saw in the crowd. The iPhone has always been a big seller for the foreign community here in Japan, and seemingly the iPad is no different.

Equally surprising was the number of English language apps on the display models. Apple’s stores, and Apple’s rules, but the culture difference didn’t seem to faze potential customers much.

First impressions

I took the chance to play around with the new model, and at a glance I would say the majors changes I noticed were mostly physical. It felt like a much larger tablet then its predecessor, and far heavier too. Accommodating the new battery for the next-generation 4G mobile broadband technology certainly added some heft, but what surprised me most was the heat emanating from the device.
In the ten minutes or so that I had to play around with it, I noticed that it became very warm, very quickly, making me wonder how comfortable it might be for long term use.

That being said, the tablet was a display piece that had already been running since the crack of dawn, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt before I suggest this is a major issue.

More to come later in the day. As Japan wakes, the United States sleeps.

Millions of Syrians Stress Support to Reform Program, Adherence to Syrian Leadership

In a national scene conveying a message to the whole world of the Syrian people's commitment to national unity away from foreign interferences and dictates, millions of Syrians on Thursday streamed into the homeland's streets and squares throughout the provinces in a global march for Syria.

Waving Syrian flags and banners with national slogans on them, the jubilant participants voiced rejection of foreign interference in the Syrian people's internal affairs and support to the comprehensive reform program led by President Bashar al-Assad to build the renewed Syria.

The reverberating echoes of pro-Syria and pro-leadership chants were heard all through the Umayyad square in Damascus, and Saba Bahrat Square in Deir Ezzor, Saadallah al-Jaberi Square in Aleppo, al-Mohafazeh Square in Lattakia and al-Raqqa, along the cornice in Tartous, the President Square in Hasaka, al-Baladieh in Misyaf, the main street of Salhab, the Post roundabout in Daraa and the neighborhoods of al-Zahra, al-Nuzha, al-Hadara and al-Sheirat in Homs.The marchers' slogans expressed denunciation of the antagonistic campaign and the conspiracy hatched against their homeland and led by some Arab parties, stressing adherence to their leadership and vowing to remain steadfast in defending Syria's security and stability.

In Damascus, the citizens who filled the Umayyad Square stressed that the Syrian people won't bow down to pressure and are bent on foiling conspiracies weaved in black rooms against Syria.

Afif Dalleh, a political analyst, said that this monumental day proves that all Syrians support the reform program under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad and that their unwavering national choices are ever focused on national unity.

''This is a declaration of victory by all accounts,'' Dalleh added.

Participants voiced trust that Syria will emerge even stronger form the crisis, pledging to protect Syria from traitors and plotters who attempt to undermine its power in service of foreign and Israeli agendas.

''These crowds want to get a vocal message across to the whole world that the Syrian people will remain united as ever in combating terrorism,'' said Monzer Mohammad, a participant.

They expressed deep thanks to Russia and China who stood by the Syrian people, indicating that one year after the onset of the crisis, the Syrians' will remains unbreakable.

''The attempts of Western and Arab countries to alter Syria's position will come to naught…because the Syrian people will spare no sacrifice to defend their country,'' said one of the participants. The tens of thousands of wavering Syrian flags reflected the Syrians' awareness in confronting the pressures and foreign dictates that are aimed at undermining their homeland and its resistant and principled national and pan-Arab stances, and their choice of sticking to national unity and discarding all attempts at sowing sedition and the tendentious media misleading campaigns. While condemning the criminal acts of the armed terrorist groups against the civilians, the security and army forces and the public and private properties, the cheering marchers applauded the Syrian Arab Arm's sacrifices for the sake of preserving Syria's stability, security and pride.

The Syrians expressed appreciation of Russia, China and other friendly countries for their stances in support of Syria against the conspiracy, denouncing the irresponsible resolutions of the Arab League, which they said has turned into a tool to implement foreign agendas aimed at fragmenting the region and controlling its resources.

In Aleppo, Saadallah al-Jabiri Square was filled to overflowing with mass crowds to voice support to national unity, independent national decision and reforms, as well as rejection of foreign interference.

Chanting national songs, they hailed the heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab army for protecting the homeland, calling for punishing the armed terrorist groups and their funders.

They stressed that the pressure by the Arab League, EU and the US will not debilitate Syria, affirming that the Syrians reject dictates and foreign interference no matter where they come from.

Ahmad Ibrahim, a Palestinian, said that the Palestinians have become an inseparable part of the Syrian fabric, adding that it is obvious that Syria is coming under pressure due to its support to resistance, denouncing statements by Palestinian leaders which ''do not represent the Palestinian people.''

''This stupendous march proves beyond doubt that the Syrian people oppose foreign interference in their country,'' said Haidar Talab, adding ''The comprehensive reform program and dialogue are the sole way out of the crisis.''

Abdul-Rahman al-Nayef, leader of al-Bousalem clan in Aleppo, said that the clans will be up to the challenge in repelling aggression against their country.
In Hasaka, Mr. President Square saw a mass gathering of thousands who began to stream into the square early in the morning to express rejection of foreign meddling and support to the independent national decision and the comprehensive reform program in Syria.

The participants raised national flags and lashed out at the attempts of foreign interference in their country, underling the importance of national unity among the Syrians.

''The horrendous crimes of the armed groups have laid bare their blood-thirsty tactics under the cover of demanding liberty…but the Syrian people were never taken in by these false pretexts,'' said Jawhar El-Helo, leader of Adwan clan.

In Homs which has borne the brunt of terrorism, the people there expressed strong denunciation of the acts of terrorism and vandalism, echoing the stances of their fellow citizens across Syria in supporting reform for building a strong Syria.

In Deir Ezzor, people flocked to Saba' Bahrat Square to send a clear message of commitment to national unity and support to reforms.

The participants pledged to preserve the Syrian soil and the national unity, condemning foreign interference and terrorism. Participants affirmed that Syria will emerge victorious with its head held high, blasting the lies and fabrications spread by some TV channels on the situation in Syria.


Lattakia was no exception. Raising national flags and banners, people gathered in the Governorate Square to support reforms and voice rejection to plots against their country.

Mufti of Lattakia Sheikh Ghazal Ghazal said that Syria is a model for national unity, adding that this nation is the cradle of civilizations and religions where people have always fought adversities and difficulties.

Participants said that the Syrians are giving lessons in democracy and reforms as embodied in these huge gatherings across the country, extending thanks to all friendly countries who stood by Syria.

In Raqqa, the citizens from across the governorate gathered at the Governorate building Square, chanting national slogans and songs.

The participants voiced adherence to national unity and saluted the Syrian Arab army which is defending the homeland, indicating that the current stage entails cohesion and soaring above differences.

The people of Hama assembled in Masyaf and Salhab areas in support of reforms and in rejection of foreign interference in their internal affairs.

The participants stressed that the Syrian people will not allow foreign interference, calling for punishing traitors and mercenaries.

In Tartous, people gathered along the Sea Cornishe, affirming that the Syrian people will remain unbowed and opposed to foreign interference.

The participants said that this global event is a genuine expression of unity against conspiracies, affirming that the Syrians could withstand the crisis thanks to their willpower and determination.

In Daraa, the crowds who gathered at the Post Roundabout Square in the city voiced support to reforms and national unity.

The participants, who chanted national songs and slogans, sought to send a clear message that the Syrians can solve their own problems, hoping that Syria will overcome the crisis.

They also said that the conspiracy is breathing its last, decrying the acts of killing, vandalism and terrorism which are intended to weaken Syria and undermine its stances in support to resistance.

Pro-Assad show, 'massacre' mark Syria anniversary

Huge rallies showed support for Syria's president on Thursday despite a new "massacre" report and a refugee exodus to Turkey, as a deadly anti-regime revolt entered a second year.

International peace envoy Kofi Annan, meanwhile, demanded answers from President Bashar al-Assad's regime before the UN Security Council re-enters the fray in a conflict that monitors now say has cost more than 9,100 lives.

State television showed tens of thousands of people waving Syrian flags and Assad's portrait in squares in Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo, Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, Suweida to the south and Hasaka in the northeast.

The cities have been relatively unscathed by the deadly crackdown on dissent.

The authorities, which have blamed the bloodshed on foreign-backed "terrorist gangs," announced a "global march for Syria" to counter anti-regime demonstrations being organised this week by the opposition across the world.

Against a backdrop of a sea of flags, including the colours of Syria's Russian and Iranian allies as well as Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, a bugler played in Damascus before a military band struck up the national anthem.

"We are not scared of death. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for you, O Syria," the demonstrators chanted, many of them singing and dancing, and shouting: "Long live the army!"

In a breakdown of 9,113 deaths in the past 12 months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the toll comprised 6,645 civilians, 1,997 members of the security forces and 471 rebels.

In Aleppo and on the outskirts of Damascus, security forces broke up scattered anti-regime protests, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which organise demonstrations.

"Bashar, get out," women chanted at a rally in the Jubar district of eastern Damascus, in a video posted by activists on the Internet.

The Observatory, meanwhile, said 23 mutilated corpses were found near the protest city of Idlib in northwest Syria that was seized by regime forces this week.

The victims had been blindfolded and handcuffed before being shot and the bodies dumped outside Idlib, it said, in an apparent repeat of a "massacre" of dozens of women and children in the flashpoint city of Homs last weekend.

It also said at least 16 other people were killed in violence on Thursday: nine civilians and four rebel fighters in Idlib province, a soldier shot in the city of the same name and two army officers on the Homs-Qusayr road.

Human Rights Watch stepped in to demand an end to the "scorched earth methods" being deployed by Assad and insist that China and Russia stop blocking UN efforts to take tough action.

"City after city, town after town, Syria's security forces are using their scorched earth methods while the Security Council's hands remain tied by Russia and China," HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson.

Since October, Moscow and Beijing have blocked two draft Security Council resolutions to condemn Damascus on the grounds they were unbalanced and aimed at regime change.

After a mission to Damascus, UN-Arab League mediator Annan has urged Assad to speed up efforts to end the bloodletting in Syria.

The former UN chief had received a response to "concrete proposals" he submitted to the Syrian president last weekend but had more "questions and is seeking answers."

Annan, who is to brief the Security Council on his mission by video conference from Geneva on Friday, "is still in contact with the Syrian authorities -- the dialogue continues," said his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

The UN said it would send experts on a Syrian government-led humanitarian mission, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the past year of "brutal repression" by Assad's regime.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos stressed "it is increasingly vital that humanitarian organisations have unhindered access to identify urgent needs and provide emergency care and basic supplies. There is no time to waste."

In neighbouring Turkey, the foreign ministry said about 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a defecting general, had crossed into the country in the past 24 hours.

"The number of Syrian refugees currently staying in Turkey boomed by 1,000 in a single day and climbed to 14,700 total," foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said.

Turkey's Red Crescent chief, Ahmet Lutfi Akar, warned that up to 500,000 Syrians may cross into the country seeking refuge from the bloodshed.

Also in Turkey, hundreds of activists in a "Freedom Convoy" who tried to enter Syria were stopped by Turkish police near the border. The aid they were carrying would instead be offered to Syrian refugees inside Turkey.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged all parties to the conflict in Syria, a close ally of the movement also backed by Iran, to lay down their weapons.

Bahrain joined a growing list of countries to shut its embassy in Syria.

In Brussels, a senior diplomat said EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton wants the bloc's 27 governments to pull all its ambassadors out of Syria going into talks among foreign ministers next week.