Thursday, May 3, 2012

Peshawar: pashto song

60% of rural India lives on Rs. 35 a day: National Sample Survey

35.00 INR = 0.656113 USD Indian Rupee US Dollar 1 INR = 0.0187461 USD 1 USD = 53.3445 INR

Hollande talks policy with FRANCE 24/RFI

In a wide-ranging interview with FRANCE 24 and RFI on Thursday, French presidential candidate François Hollande expressed satisfaction with his performance in Wednesday’s debate and outlined his domestic and international policy proposals. A day after locking horns with incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a heated televised debate, Socialist candidate François Hollande told FRANCE 24 and RFI on Thursday he was satisfied with his performance. "I think the debate unfolded as I hoped it would," said Hollande, who admitted to having the jitters beforehand, particularly because there were "high expectations and a considerable number of viewers”.A ferocious debater, Sarkozy had pushed for more than one face-off against the Socialist challenger to the French presidency, a challenge Hollande declined, making Wednesday’s debate the only one between the two candidates in 2012 French presidential race. The much-awaited verbal contest saw the two men trade barbs in the course of an almost three-hour long exchange on issues ranging from economic policies to immigration. By Thursday, French media had declared the debate a draw, denying Sarkozy, who has been lagging in the polls, a much-needed campaign boost. Speaking to FRANCE 24’s Roselyne Febvre and RFI’s Frédéric Rivière, Hollande elaborated on a theme he introduced at the start of Wednesday’s debate, maintaining that Sarkozy’s five-year presidential term had been marked by “a lot of divisions”. Hollande also spoke in detail about international affairs, although his foreign policy positions on issues such as the Iranian nuclear programme, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were not radically different from current French foreign policy. Restoring French prestige internationally But he was especially critical of the image of France that he says Sarkozy has conveyed to the international community. There were statements, postures, attitudes, choices that have hurt our country and sometimes caused trouble internationally,” he said referring to a controversial July 2007 speech by Sarkozy, called the “Dakar speech for Africa” which was meant to signal a change in France’s controversial relations with its former African colonies, but was widely criticised for being patronizing at best, condescending at worst. Hollande also stressed the need to restore “the prestige of French identity” and to "increase the attractiveness of our language and our culture." On the issue of Europe and the eurozone crisis, Hollande reiterated his opposition to the January EU agreement for new and tougher measures to enforce budget discipline in the euro zone. He also stressed his desire to rely on Europe’s "borrowing capacity” to revive the crisis-hit euro zone. Asked about his priorities for France, Hollande cited education and economy before going on to defend his proposal to add 60,000 new civil service jobs in the education sector - a plan that has been ridiculed by his rival who has maintained that France has a bloated civil service. Finally, Hollande said he expects "a grace period, like in every presidential election," but he added that the duration of this period would depend on the policy measures that will be put in place.

U.S.A. : 4 Years Later, Race Is Still Issue for Some Voters

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — This is the land of die-hard Democrats — mill workers, coal miners and union members. They have voted party line for generations, forming a reliable constituency for just about any Democrat who decides to run for office. But when it comes to President Obama, a small part of this constituency balks. “Certain precincts in this county are not going to vote for Obama,” said John Corrigan, clerk of courts for Jefferson County, who was drinking coffee in a furniture shop downtown one morning last week with a small group of friends, retired judges and civil servants. “I don’t want to say it, but we all know why.” A retired state employee, Jason Foreman, interjected, “I’ll say it: it’s because he’s black.” For nearly three and a half years, a black family has occupied the White House, and much of the time what has been most remarkable about that fact is how unremarkable it has become to the country. While Mr. Obama will always be known to the history books as the country’s first black president, his mixed-race heritage has only rarely surfaced in visible and explicit ways amid the tumult of a deep recession, two wars and shifting political currents. But as Mr. Obama braces for what most signs suggest will be a close re-election battle, race remains a powerful factor among a small minority of voters — especially, research suggests, those in economically distressed regions with high proportions of white working-class residents, like this one. Mr. Obama barely won this county in 2008 — 48.9 percent to John McCain’s 48.7 percent. Four years earlier, John Kerry had an easier time here, winning 52.3 percent to 47.2 percent over George W. Bush. Given Ohio’s critical importance as a swing state that will most likely be won or lost by the narrowest of margins, the fact that Mr. Obama’s race is a deal-breaker for even a small number of otherwise loyal Democrats could have implications for the final results. Obama advisers acknowledged that some areas of the state presented more political challenges than others, but said that the racial sentiment was not a major source of worry. The campaign’s strategy relies in large part on a strong performance in cities and suburban areas to make up for any falloff elsewhere among Democrats in this or other corners of Ohio. The Obama campaign aggressively monitors any racial remarks made against the president, but officials rarely openly discuss Mr. Obama’s race. The president released his birth certificate last year in an effort to quell a growing controversy about whether he is a United States citizen. He said last month that race in America was still “complicated.” “I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I’ve seen in my own lifetime how racial attitudes have changed and improved, and anybody who suggests that they haven’t isn’t paying attention or is trying to make a rhetorical point,” he said. “Because we all see it every day, and me being in this Oval Office is a testimony to changes that have been taking place.” Researchers have long struggled to quantify racial bias in electoral politics, in part because of the reliance on surveys, a forum in which respondents rarely admit to prejudice. In 50 interviews in this county over three days last week, 5 people raised race directly as a reason they would not vote for Mr. Obama. In those conversations, voters were not asked specifically about race, but about their views on the candidates generally. Those who raised the issue did so of their own accord. “I’ll just come right out and say it: he was elected because of his race,” said Sara Reese, a bank employee who said she voted for Ralph Nader in 2008, even though she usually votes Democrat. Did her father, a staunch Democrat and retired mill worker, vote for Mr. Obama? “I’d have to say no. I don’t think he could do it,” she said. But the main quarrels Democratic voters here have with Mr. Obama have nothing to do with race. They include his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, an environmental stance they say will harm this area, whose backbone, the Ohio River, is lined with metal mills and coal mines. And the economy, on the rise nationally, is still stuck here. About one in three residents in Steubenville live in poverty, double the national rate. Shale gas, which has begun to bring profits to some counties in Ohio, has yet to take off here, and downtown is a grid of empty storefronts behind dusty glass. “The big word was ‘change,’ but there’s not been much of that,” said Christopher Brown, a union leader in Steubenville, who said more than 200 of his members were still out of work. “Members are saying, ‘What has President Obama done for us?’ ” As for race, he said, “It’s not on the front table, it’s in the back seat.” Just how far back is a question no one can definitively answer. “Race in America is always a work in progress,” said Clement A. Price, a professor of history at Rutgers-Newark. “It’s often a proxy for social anxieties, such as this long recession, joblessness and the war abroad.” Stephanie Montgomery, who is black and a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville, said her race came up so often in her job search in this area that she developed a technique for recognizing when it was happening. The sign: when warmth on the phone turns cool in person, and “they lose eye contact with you.” “You almost need a corporate environment to get a fair shot,” she said while standing at a job fair in the Steubenville mall. She said that she did not vote for Mr. Obama in 2008 because she preferred Mr. McCain’s more conservative platform, but that Mr. Obama seemed to be a lightning rod for criticism, in part because of his race. “He’s everything they hate,” she said, referring to ultraconservatives. “An affirmative-action baby. Got the Nobel Prize without deserving it.” Many who raised race as a concern cast Mr. Obama as a flawed candidate carried to victory by blacks voting for the first time. Others expressed concerns indirectly, through suspicions about Mr. Obama’s background and questions about his faith. “He was like, ‘Here I am, I’m black and I’m proud,’ ” said Lesia Felsoci, a bank employee drinking a beer in an Applebee’s. “To me, he didn’t have a platform. Black people voted him in, that’s why he won. It was black ignorance.” Louis Tripodi, a baker in Steubenville who voted for Mr. Obama, blames talk radio and Republican rhetoric for encouraging such attitudes. “ ‘He’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s not born in this country,’ ” he said. “It’s got a lot to do with race.” Race has also helped Mr. Obama. It increased voter turnout among blacks in 2008, and some younger voters said it was part of why they voted for him. But now that history has been made, it is less of a pull. “It was kind of like a bandwagon that a lot of young people jumped on because it was history,” said Dee Kirkland, a 22-year-old working in a pizza shop in nearby Yorkville. “It was a fad to like him,” she said, adding that “race shouldn’t hinder you, but it also shouldn’t help you.” Mr. Obama still has a number of enthusiastic supporters here. Diane Woods, the owner of Pee Dee’s Brunch and Bar, a diner in downtown Steubenville, described him as “regal, and presidential,” and said she would vote for him again because “when he talks, it makes sense to me.” The fact that race came up at all in 2008 “really showed how divided we still are,” she said, cooking eggs one gray morning last week. “Blacks came out to vote for the first time because he was black, and you had all these whites saying, ‘Oh, there’s another vote from some drug addict.’ ” Mr. Corrigan, who supports Mr. Obama, said he believed that the president would ultimately win this mostly Democratic county but that it would be very close, a prediction he said was underscored by a recent flurry of Republican visits. Rick Santorum came here twice during his campaign, and Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, gave his annual address here this winter. “It’s going to be a nail-biter,” said Mr. Brown, the union official. Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Washington.

CHINA: Nation's human rights progress has no shortcut

By Shan Renping
After Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist, left the US embassy in Beijing, the case took a dramatic turn yesterday. Chen claimed that the US embassy officials lied to him and abandoned him by letting him leave. His latest request was to fly to the US on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's plane. Both Gary Locke, the US Ambassador to China, and the US Department of State denied they had threatened Chen or that the US embassy was pressured by the Chinese government. According to US officials, Chen had "a change of heart." The US embassy has caused itself trouble after receiving Chen. Chen, who reportedly said "I want to kiss you" to Hillary Clinton on the phone, is now expressing his disappointment about the US government to the media. The clash between Chen and the US embassy shows the difficult communication between this activist and the outside world. Those who had contacted him told the Global Times that Chen rarely trusts people due to his special experiences. There are numerous instances of discontent and frictions happening at the grass-roots level. Many of these can be associated with human rights, if one claims they are. Under the instigation of the West, they could all become another "Chen case." Human rights progress cannot be isolated from other comprehensive developments in China, which has been the driving force behind the advancement of human rights in China in recent decades. But if the West insists on using it as a tool, China's human rights record will continue to be attacked. Such contradictions will keep on happening since while the country is making efforts to improve human rights, it will be smeared as a human rights violator. Western media have helped to raise some unrealistic demands about human rights standards. That is why Western-initiated human rights campaigns against Chinese authorities are often echoed by Chinese members of the public. But the scrutiny on China's grass-roots human rights practices has its benefits. It will open the field of vision of the Chinese public, and may stimulate the progress of local human rights standards. But it also has the negative effect of fostering conflicts at the grass-roots level. It is difficult to tell whether these cons are made up for by the pros. Human rights progress cannot be realized in one night through a political decision, nor can it be donated by outsiders. In every country, this process requires strenuous efforts. We should not expect a shortcut.

Veena Malik: From Fiji with love

The Express Tribune
Veena Malik
, who is in the exotic Fiji Islands these days for work, shares details on her life. The actor talks about her days in one of the most beautiful islands in the world, the shooting experience of Supermodel and how she wishes the best for Mohammad Asif, who got released from London jail on May 3. On people of Fiji “It’s the first time I’m here and the experience is great. People of Fiji are warm, nice and down-to-earth. I even found this same personality trait in the Attorney General of Fiji, whom I recently met,” said Veena Malik in a telephonic interview to The Express Tribune. Work comes first
Malik disclosed that she plans to stay in Fiji for another week to shoot the remaining scenes of the film. “Most of the shoot has been done but we are here till May 10 and after that, the team will be leaving for Mumbai. The director [Navin] has a unique way of doing stuff and his technical team is amazing.” About working with her ex-flame Ashmit Patel again, she says, “He is like any other colleague for me. It’s going well.” Back to the land of spices
Malik says that she has to fly back to India as soon as possible because her projects: Tamil remake of The Dirty Picture and Bollywood comedy-thriller Rajni ki Lag Gai are slated to begin shooting in the month of May. Apart from her reel ventures, the actor is also gearing up for the first look of Mumbai 125km, a promotional shoot of Daal Mein Kuch Kala Hai and her cameo appearance for a song in Zindagi 50/50. Tamil treats
Her debut in the Tamil film industry, The Dirty Picture, is a remake of Ekta Kapoor’s movie of the same name and Malik will play the role played by actor Vidya Balan in the Hindi version. Malik, who is ecstatic to be offered this role says, “I always wanted to work in a Tamil film. I believe Tamil films are very strong as far as the script goes and technical work is concerned. I hate doing same old boy meets girl movies and I won’t be accepting any roles like these anymore.”
Her main concern, however, is that her role requires her to gain a few pounds but she is not really fond of eating heavy meals. “I have to put on weight for the film and I am not a foodie at all. I have never had three complete meals in my life but now I will have to.” When inquired if she’d have problem delivering dialogues in Tamil, Malik stated, “Initially, the plan is to have a workshop for 10 days and language is always a challenging skill for an actor but I will give it my very best shot. It will be challenging for me, but interesting too.” Next singing sensation? The actor plans on launching her singing career by releasing two solos this summer. “My music career will certainly get a boost in the coming months. I plan to release two solo songs during the late summer season in Pakistan, the UK, India and UAE.” It’s good to be free Malik, who says her motto is ‘to live and let live’ says that she wishes her ex-flame Mohammad Asif the very best in life and is happy that he has been released from jail. “I hope he has learnt his lessons in life. Firstly, never betray a girl and play with her feelings and secondly, not to fix matches and play with the entire nation’s emotions. I’m sure he punished himself more than anyone else could. I have good wishes for him and his future, but I wonder what will happen to his sports career.”

Connection Between the Pakistani Military And Hazara Killings in Quetta

The Baloch Hal
By Amjad Hussain
“I dont hold anybody responsible for the brutal murder of my sister, but the provincial government and the Pakistani military spy agency, ISI”, says Yazdan Salimi, a young Hazara man whose sibling was among the victims of March 29 terrorist attack in Quetta on a Suzuki van carrying Hazara commuters from one part of the capital city to another. “People at the helm of affairs in the North Western Balochistan province of Pakistan need to be brought to dock and made accountable for their failure to provide security to ethnic Hazara minority in the capital city”, adds Salimi who is one of the thousands of the Hazara asylum-seekers who have left the Pakistani city of Quetta to take refuge in Australia due to fear of ethnic and religious persecution. Salimi mourned the death of his sister in an Australian detention centre for asylum-seekers with great despondency as he feels sorrow for being unable to see the dead face of the victim before she was laid to rest. Like Salimi, there are hundreds of other bereaved Hazara families who have lost their loved ones in the terrorist attacks in Quetta over the the past fourteen years. These families are still waiting for the perpetrators to be nabbed and convicted. But, for them, it seems to be a forlorn hope as the government of the day in Pakistan is still unwilling to act effectively to preclude what most of the members of the affected community describe as the “systematic genocide of the Hazaras”. The current situation in Quetta is no less than a nightmare for the Hazaras who have never experienced such worst days in their whole life span even since their migration from Aghanistan to Pakistan over a century ago. Life has come to a standstill for the Hazaras in the city due to incessant targeted attacks on them by the terrorists who are hounding this ill-fated community across the city with full passion. The Hazaras are unable to move around the city to earn livelihood by attending their offices and visiting their business outlets. They have stopped sending their children to schools and colleges. Thousands have fled abroad to save their lives. Terrorists are enjoying a free hand and full impunity to gun down the Hazaras at the places of their own choice anywhere in the city. The latest series of the targeted attacks on the ethnic minority, which began on March 26 and continued till April 14 without any break, rendered more than thirty members of the community dead. The easy escape of the culprits from the crime scene after every incident has posed a big question mark to efficiency and performance of the thousands of the law enforcement agencies’ personnel deputed across Quetta city for security reasons. The provincial government, which according to Balochistan governor, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, is mainly made up of the ministers involved in heinous crimes like murder, robbery, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and kidnapping for ransom, seems to be least bothered by these killings. Its interest to protest the lives of the Hazaras can be well-guaged by the statement of the chief executive, Nawab Aslam Raisani, wherein he had made a mockery of the bereaved Hazara families by offering to send them a truckload of tissue papers to wipe off their tears. The provincial government’s apathy to the Hazaras’ killings in the capital city imply that the culprits are too powerful and influential to be managed by the government. Whose support are these culprits enjoying then which is even more powerful than an elected government? Those who have some knowledge about the Pakistani politics are very well aware of the fact that the civilian government is unable to deal with only those elements which bask in the sunshine of the omnipotent military establishment. Thus, Pakistan military’s involvement in the Hazaras’ killings can not be ruled out. The circumstantial evidences also corroborate this presumption. What advantages do the Pakistani military establishment want to take from the Hazara’s killings is the question which calls for an answer. After the ouster of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan back in 2001, Pakistan military has been making strenuous efforts to regain power in the war-torn country as an attempt to prevent it go under Indian influence. To achieve their ulterior goal, the Pakistani military Generals started to support and patronize with more zeal the religious extremist groups like the Taliban’s Haqqani Network and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi by declaring them as their “Strategic Assets”. By targeting the Hazaras in Quetta, the Pakistani military establishment want to pressurize the Hazaras in Afghanistan to step bending towards India along with their partners in the Afghan coalition government and side with Pakistan instead as a tug of war to hold sway on the neighboring country is supposed to commence between the two arch rivals soon after withdrawal of the Allied forces from Afghanistan in 2014. Given the dirty politics and bloody strategies of the Pakistani military establishment with respect to its neighboring country there seems a little chance for the Pakistani Hazaras to heave a sigh of relief in near future. In the meantime, there also falls an onun on the international community and human rights watchdogs to take serious cognizance of the Hazaras’s killings in Quetta. They need to take up the issue with the Pakistani government and exert all their pressure to force the security establishment of the country to apprehend the perpetrators of the heinous crime and to provide the Hazaras with the right to live with peace and tranquility.
Amjad Hussain, a native of Quetta, is a freelance journalist. Between 2001 to 2011, he worked in Quetta and Islamabad as a reporter for Dawn News and the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).

Ex-girlfriends' views of young Obama

Beyonce wins journalism honor for magazine story

Associated Press
is accustomed to getting awards for writing songs, but now she's earned one for writing a magazine piece. The New York chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists will award Beyonce the first-place prize in arts and entertainment in its magazine category for a story she wrote for Essence magazine. The first-person piece was titled "Eat, Play, Love" and appeared in the magazine's July 2011 issue. In it, the Grammy winner talks about how taking a break from music changed her life. Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z had their first child, daughter Blue Ivy, in January. She released her fourth solo album, "4," last year. The singer will receive the journalism honor at the association's Scholarship and Awards Banquet on May 15 in New York.

Hollande confident as French election draws near

Afghanistan:Strategic pact based on mutual interest & respect

Afghan president Hamid Karzai
briefing reporters on Afghanistan-US strategic pact said the two nations have agreed to respect the national benefits, sovereignty and equality. President Karzai said respect to Afghan constitution and that the Afghan soil will not be used against any other nation are the main conditions of the strategic cooperation agreement with Washington. While pointing towards the issues relating the political system of Afghanistan president Karzai said the strategic pact between the two nations also focus on centralized political system despite recent interference by a number of US congress members to amend the Afghan political system. He said a number of the US congress members recently struggled to change Afghanistan into a federal government adding that the political system should be amended only by Afghans and not by foreigners. This comes as a number of the opposition leaders also urged to change the current political system from presidential to parliamentarian, which was supported by a number of US congress members. Afghan opposition leaders and US congress members have had at least two sessions in this regard so far. The Afghan government also prohibited a US congress member to enter Afghanistan and meet with the Afghan opposition leaders. President Karzai also said NATO and United States remains committed to support Afghanistan against external threats. The strategic pact between Afghanistan and United States was signed between the two nations during the recent visit of president Barack Obama in capital Kabul. According to Afghan officials the strategic pact is a framework of cooperation between Kabul and Washington and is valid until 2024

Obama enjoys overwhelming Hispanic support in 2012 race
Hispanic Americans, the fastest growing minority group in the United States, favor President Barack Obama over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a huge margin, a potentially decisive factor in the Nov. 6 election. Hispanics are critical because of the complex state-by-state system for choosing the U.S. president. They could tip the vote in the president's favor in key swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida. What's more, the Hispanic vote could put once-solidly Republican Arizona in play for Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama was in Arizona on Monday, testing the waters for her husband at a fundraiser. She also stopped in three other heavily Hispanic states in the U.S. southwest -- Colorado, Nevada and reliably Democratic New Mexico. Vice President Joe Biden also was in Arizona two weeks ago, courting voters who last settled on a Democrat for president when Bill Clinton won re-election in 1996. Hispanic voters historically have sided with Democratic presidential candidates out of a sense that the party best handled the immigration issue, which tops their list of concerns. They appear to be sticking with Obama despite his record-setting deportation of illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security shows that since 2009 the number of deportations has approached 400,000 each year, well above the number during the George W. Bush presidency. In the latest poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Obama overwhelms Romney by 67 percent to 27 percent among Hispanic registered voters. That support matches the 67 percent of the Hispanic vote Obama captured in 2008. Romney has alienated many Hispanics with his support of Arizona's tough new immigration law as "a model" for the nation. The initiative, approved in 2010, has been denounced by Hispanic and immigration rights groups as extreme. Challenges to the law recently were argued before the Supreme Court, where both liberal and conservative justices indicated they were not in favor of overturning the measure. During Republican primary debates, Romney said that "the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona. ... I'll also complete the (border) fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence, and I'll make sure we ... require employers to check the documents of workers." Romney also opposes the Democrats' Dream Act legislation that would allow a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants if they serve in the military or go to college. Romney's positions put him to the right even of Republican opponents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. He now faces the challenge of finding a way to shift toward the center if he is to have any hope with Hispanic voters. Obama carried Colorado, Nevada and Florida in 2008, and keeping those states in his column could prove essential in this year's voting. With six months remaining before the vote, national polls show the president and Romney in a very close race, with the struggling economy the top issue. That should be especially important to Hispanics, who have 11 percent unemployment while the overall jobless rate is 8.2 percent. Perhaps the biggest question about Hispanic preferences arises in Florida, one that could prove key to the hopes of both candidates. Mark Lopez of the Pew Hispanic center cites "changing demographics" there, which show more Hispanics registering as Democrats in the last two elections. In the past, the Florida Hispanic population had been dominated by Cubans, who are heavily Republican given that party's history of a greater antagonism to Communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his successor and brother, Raul. But Puerto Ricans are a fast-growing part of the Hispanic community there and they overwhelmingly back Democrats. In a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup with Obama, 40 percent of Florida Hispanics said they would vote for Romney, while 50 percent prefer Obama, according to a Univision News/ABC News poll from late January. The poll found that Florida Cubans side with Romney over Obama 54 percent to 34 percent, while Puerto Ricans back Obama 67 percent to 23 percent. Nationally, if the election were held now, Obama would safely carry 14 traditionally Democratic states, mainly the East and West Coasts, and the District of Columbia, with a total of 186 electoral votes. Romney probably would prevail in 20 reliably Republican states, primarily in the South and West, worth 156. Electoral votes in the end are more important than the popular vote. Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the race to George W. Bush, who accumulated the most electoral votes. The election system really amounts to 50 separate state-by-state contests where the winner is awarded the number of electoral votes assigned to that state according to the number of representatives it has in the House of Representatives, plus the two senators each state has in the Senate. The winning presidential candidate must triumph in enough states to accumulate 270 electoral votes, half plus one of the 538 total electors. The candidate who does best in Nevada, Colorado and Florida will have a significant advantage. That will especially be the case for Obama if he can add traditionally Republican-voting Arizona to his count.

Won't let Lyari to become Swat, Malakand

The News
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has claimed that Taliban, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other banned outfits are working in Lyari and that the situation is like that of Malakand. He was addressing at a press conference along with Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah after chairing a meeting on law and order at CM House. The interior minister warned that the house in Lyari would be set on fire if any rocket launcher or hand grenade is recovered from there. Malik said they would not let Lyari to become Swat or Malakand. Whether it is Lyari or Liaquatabad or any other area of Karachi, action against outlaws would be taken without discrimination, Malik added.

Shahbaz Sharif's assistants not allowed to use kitty’

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday remarked that the illegal usage of Punjab’s exchequer by the political assistants of Chief Minister could not be allowed. Justice Umar Ata Bandial directed the Additional Advocate General Punjab Ahmad Rauf to submit a detail about appointment of dozens of political assistants of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and under what law the assistants were using the government offices and pick and drop facilities. During the course of hearing, Provincial Law Officer Ahmad Rauf told the court that the assistants had been appointed by the CM by using executive orders, and they were using the government offices following the executive orders. However, no salary was being paid to the political assistance in the light of executive order, Raud assured the court. Petitioner lawyer Rana Mehtab opposed the contentions of the law officer and contended that only five political assistants could be appointed according to the law, but the CM had appointed dozens of them which had become burden on provincial kitty. The court recorded the arguments of both sides and sought detailed report and reply regarding the law that allowed the political assistants to use government offices in the light of an executive order. Rana Mehtab had challenged the appointments of political assistants of CM. The petitioner submitted that the government in a bid accommodate its blue eyed workers had appointed them as assistants against hefty amounts and benefits. He said they were unnecessary burden on the national exchequer. Due to financial crunch, it had become hard to run the provincial matters and the government had further burdened the exchequer to accommodate its political workers. He requested to declare illegal the all appointments of unnecessary assistants and sought direction for the government not to make such appointments in future. The court would resume hearing on June 26.

PTI slams PML-N govt for ‘double standards’

Punjab PTI has criticized the Punjab government for its double standards on corruption and poor governance. Flanked by Punjab general secretary Dr Yasmin Rashid and information secretary Andleeb Abbas, Punjab PTI president Ahsan Rasheed in a press conference on Wednesday stated that the PML-N had been criticizing the federal government but ignoring numerous cases of its own corruption and poor governance which had been highlighted by the media time and again. Sasti Roti, Laptops and Danish Schools are only some examples of high level corruption and poor governance of the Punjab government, he said. Criticizing the Punjab government, the PTI Punjab president said that no meaningful action had been taken to investigate the laptop scam, despite continued projection of the alleged embezzlement by the media. The PTI leadership quoted media reports, “A total of 110,000 laptops procured not directly from the manufacturer but through a local company.” The PTI leaders said that the Punjab government had bought outdated laptops at a rate of Rs 37,000/per laptop for a total of four billion rupees. The market price for these laptops is not more than Rs. 25,000.The cost should not have been more than Rs. 20,000 because of old technology and bulk buying. Rules and regulations were violated to accommodate the company as the NAB was not informed of the transaction. Law says all procurement in excess of Rs 500 million should be brought in NAB’s knowledge. Resultantly, the laptop scheme had cost total losses worth Rs. 1.70 billion to the provincial kitty, they said. Exorbitant increase in crime rates, unprecedented reliance on foreign and local debt to run the day-to-day affairs of the Punjab government clearly depicted that the incumbent regime in Punjab was inept and corrupt. They stated that the PML-N could not fool the people by criticizing only the federal government for corruption and poor governance. Referring to a book by Raymond W Baker, they said that massive corruption of Sharif Brothers had been exposed in the book. The author has alleged the Sharifs of corruption amounting hundreds of millions of dollars through money laundering, loan defaults and other scams, they said. “Both the federal and Punjab governments are led by corrupt and incapable people who diverge and converge on issues considering their own vested interests with complete disregard to the welfare of the people of Pakistan”, they said, adding that this was not the first time that the PML-N was in power in Punjab and the people were fully aware that the party had failed to deliver anything substantial, despite being in power for years.

Pakistan 2nd most dangerous country for journalists: UNESCO

Thursday, marks the day for “World Press Freedom day” but journalists within Pakistan should not get relieved as UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, adjudged Pakistan to be the second most dangerous with respect to the safety of journalists. Pakistan has been ranked second, behind Mexico, in terms of safety conditions for journalists. UNESCO, in its report titled “Safety and the danger of Impunity” states that media personnel are slaughtered each year within the Pakistani region and the number has been continually increasing. The report has further indicated that a number of 16 journalists were murdered within Pakistan in the year 2010-2011. This figure, when compared to the figure compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) gives a different perspective. According to CPJ’s figures, almost 42 journalists have been murdered since 1992. Hence the 2010-2011 figures are almost 38% of the total figure. This shows that the year 2010-2011 saw a vast increase in journalists being slaughtered within the country. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also issued their report on the eve of “World Press Freedom day”. The report suggested that Pakistan to be the dangerous most country for journalists by ranking it at the top position. The UNESCO report also suggests that freelance journalists have been targeted more promptly than normal staffers. The freelancers amounted to 20% of the total. Almost 14 journalists have lost their lives in the previous year while being on work. The names include: Javed Naseer Rind of Daily Tawar, Faisal Qureshi of London Post, Shafiullah Khan of The News in Wah Cantonment, Asfandyar Khan of Akhbar-i-Khyber in Peshawar; Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online, Nasarullah Khan Afridi, freelance journalist, and Wali Khan Babar of Geo. While in 2012, Mukarram Khan was brutally murdered by two armed men on 17 January, 2012 near Peshawar. Murtaza Razvi, a senior assistant editor and head of magazines at Dawn, was also found, anonymously murdered on 19th April, 2012. UNESCO has come up with an arrangement to help with the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. The UN organization intends to create a free and safe working environment for media workers in both conflict and non-conflict zone within the entire world. “The safety of journalists is essential to upholding Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the right to freedom of expression,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated. Seminars are being held within Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan on the World Press Freedom day” in order to present challenges on security issues faced by journalists.

AQ Khan: Return of the mad nuclear scientist

Let Us Build Pakistan
By Tarek Fatah
As Israeli politicians and intelligence officials bicker publicly about Iran’s capability of making a nuclear bomb and its capacity to strike Israel, they seem blind to what is happening next door in Pakistan that has both the bomb and strike capability, and soon the political leadership to order such a strike.
Like the rest of the West, Jerusalem seems incapable of sifting through the myriad of complexities that allow Pakistan, the most dangerous enemy of the West to escape scrutiny. Islamabad’s military capabilities are not restricted to nuclear bombs alone; it has deviously managed to squeeze billions of dollars from the very West its undeclared jihad wishes to destroy. Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak insists Iran is “determined to obtain nuclear weapons,” adding, “And they are getting closer. We are approaching what I’ve termed the immunity zone — the moment when Iran’s nuclear program will be sufficiently developed and secretly concealed, that it will be immune to any surgical attacks.” Israel is particularly concerned with Iran’s underground Fordo site buried deep inside a mountain near the city of Qom, where centrifuges are enriching uranium to 20 percent purity. Well, unbeknownst to the Israelis and perhaps the Americans, the man who supplied the Iranians the centrifuges and who amassed a fortune selling stolen nuclear know-how from the Netherlands and components manufactured in Pakistan to Iran, Dr. A. Q. Khan is being set up to become the next president of nuclear-armed Pakistan. Time magazine called this dangerous rogue scientist “The Merchant of Menace” in 2005 and had this to report on Khan’s Iranian connection: “... IAEA officials say, [A. Q.] Khan did establish contact with the Iranians. A key member of the network has told investigators that Iran bought centrifuges from Khan. The IAEA reports that the Khan network also provided Iran with blueprints to manufacture more P-1 and P-2 centrifuges.” Seven years ago Time reported, “Khan is under house arrest, his every move monitored by Pakistani government agents. He is said to be in failing health,” predicting Khan “will probably live out his days a recluse.” Not so fast. The man Pakistan promised would never be allowed to peddle his nuclear wares again, is today a free man and has teamed up with the notorious pro-Taliban Pakistani politician, Imran Khan donning the title of ‘Patron’ of cricketer-turned politician’s political party. While the anti-American Imran Khan is being groomed by Pakistan’s military-judicial-jihadi complex to take over as the country’s next prime minister after the 2013 elections, the mad scientist Dr. A. Q. Khan is being promoted as the country’s next president. Already a Facebook page has emerged with the title “We want Imran Khan as PM and AQ Khan as president.” The possibility of President A. Q. Khan of Pakistan is already creating waves in The Netherlands; Holland is to host the 2014 World Nuclear Security Summit where Pakistan will be at the table and some members of the Dutch media are raising the issue with alarm. It seems neither the U.S. nor Israel have woken up to the scenario of a nuclear-armed Pakistan headed by a pro-Taliban prime minister and a rogue nuclear scientist as the president; one who admits to have sold nuclear parts and know-how to both Iran and North Korea.

Pakistan: Senate passes resolution in favour of PM

The Senate has passed a resolution unanimously to repose the confidence in Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. PPP Secretary General and Leader of the House in Senate Jahangir Badar presented the resolution that Yousaf Raza Gilani was the elected prime minister of the country who with his measures proved the supremacy of law. The resolution said the Senate pays rich tributes to the prime minister. It happened first time in the history of the country that prime minister appeared before the court thrice as a common citizen, it added. Speaking on the resolution, ANP Senator Haji Adeel said his party salutes the prime minister for his firm stance for supremacy of the Constitution. He said if he would show weakness in defending the constitution in future, ANP would part ways with him.

Hollande: The man who would be France's president

François Hollande, the man on track to topple Nicolas Sarkozy from the French presidential stage, offers a marked difference from his rival.

French centrist Bayrou says will vote for Hollande in runoff

French centrist Francois Bayrou says he will vote for Socialist hopeful Francis Hollande in the May 6 presidential runoff.

India's Agni-V – a ticket to the Club

Interview with Dr. Raja Mohan of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India. What does the successful test of Agni-V signify for India? I think the Agni-V test is a part of Indian effort to build a clearable, minimum deterrent. So, this would involve by necessity the development of a long-range missile. I think it is an incremental, slow advances in India’s overall nuclear weapons program. And it is not directed against anyone but it certainly brings China within the range. And it will eventually give India the capability for a deterrence against China. It is not directed against China in any political sense. Do I get it right that India’s strategy is no strike first? Yes. So, it wants to develop a range of weapons but in small numbers so that it has the road mobile long-range missile, it has an underwater submarine launched missile and it has a deliver weapons. So, it wants to develop a small rangewhich will serve as a credible minimum deterrent. Now if we look at the Pakistani test, what kind of missile have they tested? I think the Pakistani thing doesn’t change anything. The Pakistanis had a deterrence against India for so long but even short-range missiles will do it for them. I think with the testing Pakistan and its army is merely showing that they are also in the game. But it makes no difference to India because they’ve had this deterrent against India for the last two decades. And India’s problem is not the number of Pakistani nuclear weapons, and it is not about the range of its missiles, the problem for India is that Pakistan uses terrorism, under the cover of nuclear deterrent supports terrorism. That is India’s security problem not the Pakistani arsenal. You got to understand this point that our nuclear deterrent would not be in a position to support terrorist organizations in India. Like Russia and China have nuclear weapons but that doesn’t complicate the political relationship. Similarly India acquiring nuclear weapons, I don’t think it is going to change the dynamic of India-China relations which are now on a positive track. But in the case of Pakistan, they use the nuclear deterrent to support cross border terrorism. So, that is different set of issues. Various experts, many are pointing to a kind of buildup of tension. There is no tension at all. In fact our relationships with China are looking up. Indian and Chinese political leaders on recent meetings have agreed to expand the bilateral relationship. So, for the first time we see an expanded engagement between India and China. Similarly on the Pakistani side, at least the Pakistan’s civilian leadership is very keen to expand economic cooperation with India. So, we are beginning to see some good signs in the India-Pakistan relationship as well. So, just to sum it up. Do I get it right that this missile becomes just another deterrence factor and it would actually help build up more constructive relationship between India and China, is my understanding correct? Yes, absolutely. In fact I think in it enables to feel more confident, enables to engage more with China. So, once there is no balance and harmony at the military level I think it will open the door for more economic, political and security cooperation between India and China. Dr. Raja Mohan, thank you so much. And just to remind you our guest speaker was Dr. Raja Mohan of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India.

Libya funded Sarkozy 2007 campaign: ex-Libya PM's lawyer

Muammar Gaddafi's regime funded French President Nicolas Sarkozy's
2007 election campaign, a lawyer for former Libyan prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi said Thursday, quoting his client. "Moamer Kadhafi, his regime and the officials who worked with him financed Sarkozy's election campaign in 2007," Bechir Essed told reporters in Tunis, where Mahmudi is detained, mentioning the sum of some 50 million euros. Hollande urges inquiry into Sarkozy's ties with Gaddafi French presidential candidate Francois Hollande has called for an inquiry into suspected ties between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Libya’s slain ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Hollande’s Socialist party wants prosecutors to verify reports that Gaddafi financed Sarkozy’s presidential campaign five years ago. Earlier, the Mediapart internet outlet published a document claiming that Sarkozy received 50 million euro from Gaddafi for his presidential race. Sarkozy refuted the allegations, saying they were absurd. Hollande and Sarkozy will clash in the second round of the French presidential election scheduled for May 6. Gaddafi put up 50M euro for Sarkozy’s presidential bid Deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had agreed to fund French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign – to the tune of 50 million euro. The Paris-based investigative website Mediapart published “documentary evidence” that Gaddafi was ready to put forth tens of millions of dollars to see that Sarkozy won the French presidential race. Mediapart claimed Saturday that the 2006 document was provided by "former senior [Libyan] officials, who are now in hiding." They further claim the document came “from the archives of the secret service,” and was signed by Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief and later foreign minister, Moussa Koussa. In it, Koussa noted “an agreement in principle to support the campaign for the candidate for presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a sum equivalent to 50 million euro." Sarkozy denied similar allegations made this March, when the former doctor of a French arms dealer claimed to have set up the campaign donation. Sarkozy attempted to shrewdly deflect the allegations when confronted by a TF1 presenter, saying, "If [Gaddafi] had financed it, I wasn't very grateful." Sarkozy’s sarcastic comeback was in reference to France’s lead role in the NATO campaign that led to Gaddafi’s brutal demise. French politicians are banned from receiving campaign contributions from foreign states, and a French judge is currently looking into the allegations. The document has surfaced at a particularly sensitive time for Sarkozy, who lost the first round of the French presidential vote and is currently trailing his Socialist rival Francois Hollande in the polls. The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for May 6.

Russian General Threatens ‘Pre-emptive’ Attacks on Missile-Defense Sites

A senior Russian general threatened on Wednesday pre-emptive attacks on missile defense sites in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe in the event of a crisis, underscoring the Kremlin’s opposition to the Obama administration’s plans and further undermining the “reset” in relations between the countries. While Russian officials have said previously that the antimissile sites could become targets in the event of war, the threat of a pre-emptive attack was new. The remarks from the general, Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the general staff, coming just days before Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin is set to assume the presidency for the second time, might also signal a shift to a more muscular foreign policy than that pursued by the outgoing president, Dmitri A. Medvedev. They were seen as particularly disappointing to the White House, since it had adjusted the missile defense to address the Russians’ security concerns, to a cascade of criticism from Republicans. The remarks also cast further doubt on the fate of the reset, which has been troubled for some time. In recent months, the Kremlin has resisted Washington’s entreaties to pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and given a cold shoulder to the new American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, with prominent commentators and politicians accusing him of trying to foment revolution in Russia. He in turn publicly complained about a TV station hacking into his phones, with the clear implication that it did so with the approval and perhaps assistance of the government. General Makarov was speaking at a conference in Moscow on antiballistic missile policy, hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defense. In his speech, one of many spelling out opposition to the plan, he went on to specify the type of Russian short-range missiles that might target locations in Eastern Europe. “Taking into account a missile defense system’s destabilizing nature, that is, the creation of an illusion that a disarming strike can be launched with impunity, a decision on pre-emptive employment of the attack weapons available could be made when the situation worsens,” General Makarov said, according to the Interfax news agency. Moscow authorities billed the conference as a forum for Russia to demonstrate how a United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization missile defense system directed at Iran or another rogue state would inevitably undermine Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. General Makarov, the Russian chief of staff, also laid out potential Russian countermoves to missile defense, in a day of cold war-style arguments about how a nuclear battle between the United States and Russia might play out in light of the interceptor missiles planned for Eastern Europe. Those included placing medium-range missiles, called Iskanders, near the border with Poland. The United States says the proposed system would be useless against a full-scale attack from Russia’s huge arsenal. President George W. Bush proposed the system for Eastern Europe after withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty over Russia’s objections. President Obama first stalled the Eastern European program as part of the reset and then revived it in a new format, called the Phased Adaptive approach. Russian generals floated a number of objections to the revised plan. General Makarov, in his speech, said the United States was refusing to offer written guarantees that the interceptor missiles directed at Iran will not have the capacity to hit a Russian ICBM in flight as it streaks toward the United States with a nuclear bomb. American officials have said the proposed system will not have that capability. Ellen Tauscher, the American special envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense, who is attending the conference, told journalists in a briefing Wednesday that the American delegation would hear out the Russian objections but was unlikely to make concessions. “The Russian concerns are concerns that we’re willing to listen to. “But at the same time they cannot be concerns that we will mitigate by offering any kind of limitations,” Ms. Tauscher said. “There’s nothing I can imagine that will stop us making these deployments on time.”

U.S. The 86 million invisible unemployed

There are far more jobless people in the United States than you might think. While it's true that the unemployment rate is falling, that doesn't include the millions of nonworking adults who aren't even looking for a job anymore. And hiring isn't strong enough to keep up with population growth.As a result, the labor force is now at its smallest size since the 1980s when compared to the broader working age population. "We've been getting some job growth and it's been significant, but it hasn't yet been strong enough that you start to get people re-engaging in the labor market," said Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job market dropouts A person is counted as part of the labor force if they have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. Only about 64% of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that category, according to the Labor Department. That's the lowest labor force participation rate since 1984. It's a worrisome sign for the economy and partly explains why the unemployment rate has been falling recently. Only people looking for work are considered officially unemployed. Jason Everett, for example, wouldn't be counted. Out of work for nearly three years now, Everett has given up his job search altogether. Instead, the unemployed plumber and Air Force veteran takes a few community college courses and looks after his two children while his wife is the primary breadwinner. "I'm not even totally convinced the college degree is really going to help at this point, but I figure at least I'll be doing something," he said. The unofficially unemployed Last year there were 86 million people who didn't have a job and weren't consistently looking for one, according to Labor Department data. Older people, ages 65 and over, account for more than a third. Young people between 16 and 24 make up another fifth. More than half don't have a college degree and more than two thirds are white. Many of the teens and 20-somethings may be enrolled in either high school or college full-time. And many of the over 65 crowd are probably retired. But what about the other 36 million folks who fall in between? The truth is, the Labor Department simply doesn't know why they're not in the labor force. Many may be staying home with children or other relatives. Some may have gone back to school or retraining programs. Others could be disabled and unable to work, and some may have retired early. "Even in the best of times, there are millions of people who don't want to work for a variety for reasons," Hall said. But he suspects the number of "disengaged" Americans, like Everett, is higher than usual as a direct result of the recession. About six million people claim they want a job, even though they haven't looked for one in the last four weeks. If they were to all start applying for work again, the unemployment rate would suddenly shoot up above 11%.At this point, the labor market is worse than people realize because people are discouraged. Certainly, a large number of workers have given up on the job market," Hall said. That said, the decline in labor force participation is not a new problem. After peaking at 67.3% in early 2000, the rate has been falling ever since. Researchers at the Chicago Federal Reserve attribute a large part of the decline to the recent recession and lackluster recovery, but the other half to long-term demographic trends. For example, as more women entered the labor force between the 1960s and 1990s, the participation rate rose rapidly. That effect may have plateaued since then. Meanwhile, as Baby Boomers entered their prime working years, they also drove the participation rate higher. Once they started hitting their 50s and 60s though, many started transitioning into retirement. Finally, teenage jobs have been on the decline and college enrollment picked up in the last decade, leading more young people to not be counted in the labor force. As these trends continue, the Chicago Fed expects the labor force participation rate will keep falling, hitting 62.4% by 2020. That poses a problem for a variety of reasons. It hits tax revenue and makes it harder to fund social safety nets like Social Security. Not to mention, it's likely to increase income inequality. Most importantly though, it makes the U.S. economy less productive and weighs on growth.

Hollande-Sarkozy TV debate a draw

Media call Hollande-Sarkozy TV debate a draw
Following a combative debate that lasted almost three hours on prime-time French TV, Socialist front-runner François Hollande managed to hold President Nicolas Sarkozy to a draw, French media said Thursday, denying Sarkozy a much-needed comeback.Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande showed “he had what it takes to lead the country” in a bruising two hour and 45 minutes televised face-off with an “aggressive” incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday, according to the French media. Trailing Hollande in the polls by around six points, many saw Wednesday evening’s debate as Sarkozy’s crucial last opportunity to outflank his rival ahead of Sunday’s second round of the presidential election.Sarkozy is known as a strong and combative debater – and had even challenged Hollande to three televised head-to-heads. But the majority of opinion in the French media on Thursday found that the Socialist candidate had stubbornly held his ground in the face of an aggressive incumbent on fighting form. Left-leaning press admits a draw France’s left wing newspaper of reference Le Monde praised Hollande for resisting attack after attack by Sarkozy, defending a barrage of facts and figures with repeated counter attacks that demonstrated “that he knew all the details and could maintain a presidential composure.” The Socialist candidate held his own as Sarkozy tried to “play the teacher to Hollande the pupil,” said the newspaper’s columnist Francoise Fressoz. “The result was a draw,” she said. “Hollande started off as favourite, and he finished as favourite. Mr Sarkozy was unable to destabilise him, which was evidently his strategy from the beginning of the debate.” Left-leaning Liberation said that the confrontation was the “toughest since 1988”, according to columnist Alain Duhamel, who presided over the 1974 and 1995 TV debates. “Sarkozy was very natural and very aggressive,” Dumahel wrote. “Hollande was firm and sharp. Both demonstrated a strong will to show that they had what it takes to lead the country.” France’s influential and generally less politically biased regional newspapers found that the debate, for all its tough talk and the attempts by both candidates to outdo each other with detailed facts and figures, did not change the status quo. Ouest France, the country’s biggest regional title (with a circulation of 800,000, France’s second biggest newspaper) said the debate “would have the principal effect of anchoring the existing opinions of voters.” And L’Est Republicain’s columnist Remi Godeau wrote that “this crucial debate will not cause a political earthquake.” “It was a good fight that won’t do much to change the balance of power on Sunday,” said Le Republicain Lorrain. “But Francois Hollande, in his behaviour and in his attitude, was the more presidential of the two.” La Montagne agreed that if Hollande took away any advantage, it was that he had demonstrated a presidential image, while Brittany’s Le Telegramme said that “while on the form it was an even draw, in substance it was like watching a pair of deaf people arguing points and where no progress can be found.” Neither candidate sank under the pressure, while both stayed firmly within their own ideologies,” said the Journal de Haute Marne. Conservative daily Le Figaro was the only daily newspaper that still believed that Sarkozy had shown a clear lead and could still claim victory on Sunday. Criticising Hollande’s “old fashioned socialist language”, the newspaper’s senior columnist Paul-Henri du Limbert said the left was out of touch and that the French people could still choose Sarkozy on Sunday. “Sarkozy reminded his rival that the world has changed since the socialists were last in power,” he wrote, arguing that the French left’s biggest talent was “looking to the past” and criticised as outdated promises to lower the minimum age of retirement and increase taxes on the rich. Whatever the media’s verdict, Europe 1 radio on Thursday published a poll which showed its listeners were not so on the fence. Of some 40,000 voters at noon on Thursday, 54% thought Hollande had come out top, with 34% favouring Sarkozy and 10% seeing the debate as an even draw.

China calls on India to make joint efforts to maintain peace in border region

A Chinese spokesman on Thursday expressed hope that China and India will continue to make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in the border region of both countries. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin made the remarks at a regular press briefing, while commenting on the report that Indian Minister of Defence A.K. Antony has testified in the Upper House of Parliament recently that Chinese helicopters had entered Indian air space twice in March. Liu said, China has noted relevant reports, but the Chinese side needs to find out what the facts are. China's position on the China-India border issue has not changed, and it hopes that both sides will make joint efforts to properly solve border dispute through negotiations and consultations, Liu added. "Prior to this, (China) hopes both sides will continue to be committed to maintaining peace and stability in border region of the two countries," he said.

Best models honored as Beijing Auto Show concludes

Rising Asian prosperity to be sustained by new growth driver
Asia will be able to sustain its rising prosperity by relying on new growth drivers such as boosting local consumption and diversifying its export markets. According to the recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report presented Thursday, this will keep Asian economies resilient amid sluggish growth in the United States and Europe. According to ADB's report entitled "How Can Asia Respond to Global Economic Crisis and Transformation," Asia can cope with renewed financial crisis and slow export demand from developed markets. But the report stressed that long-term prosperity in the region will rely on domestic and regional markets as well as expanding ties with Latin America and Africa. "This is the new normal," renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs told the Governors' Seminar at the 45th Annual ADB Meeting here. With both the U.S. and Europe expected to have "slow and erratic growth", Sachs said that emerging Asian economies can't sustain their growth by continuing to export to their traditional markets. Rather, Asia has to boost domestic consumption and promote regional trade. "There's an opportunity for Asia to find other export markets, other than the traditional ones and Africa, for example, an export market, because Africa is a continent of 1 billion people," Sachs said.ADB offered key medium to long term measures that will support Asia's move to expand beyond its traditional markets. These include rebalancing growth toward domestic sources- consumption and investment; strengthening finance, deepening markets and fostering financial inclusion; improving the business and investment climate; preparing people for future jobs, upgrading industry and environmentally sound urban planning; boosting intra- regional trade and expanding "South-South" links and deepening regional cooperation and integration. But more than looking for other export markets or strengthening regional trade, Asia's growth will be sustained by being more inclusive and equitable. "We have the tendency to leave the poor out of the equation," Sachs said. Indeed, according to the ADB report, growing inequality threatens both economic growth and political stability. Poverty remains a problem in a region which is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. "The ultimate challenge is to continue transforming economies in a way that promotes peoples’ welfare and reduces poverty," ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said. The ADB said Asian governments must invest more in human development and social services to uplift the welfare of its people, allowing them to receive the gains from rapid growth. Sachs said more public and private investments in core infrastructure such as housing, roads, power, information technologies, climate resilience, pollution control will "ensure long-term quality of life in Asia."

Chinese President Hu attends opening ceremony of China-US high-level dialogue

Chinese President Hu Jintao
on Thursday attended the opening ceremony of the fourth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). Hu is scheduled to address the opening ceremony of the annual gathering of high-ranking officials from the two countries. During the dialogue, the officials are expected to exchange views on how to advance the construction of the China-U.S. bilateral cooperative partnership, deepen communication and coordination on macroeconomic policies and major issues in the world economy, boost economic and trade cooperation and enhance communication on international and regional affairs.

China, US hold 4th Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday urged that China and the United States need to deepen trust to each other. Hu made the remark when addressing the Opening Session of the fourth round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED) on Thursday morning in Beijing. "To build a new type of relations between China and the United States, we need to trust each other," Hu said. He said that the world is big enough for China, the United States and all other countries to achieve common development. Over the past 30 years and more since its reform and opening-up process started, China has, through the hard work and wisdom of the Chinese people and win-win cooperation with the people around the world, pursued peaceful development, he said. "This is a right path to development that we have embarked on," said Hu, adding that to follow the path of peaceful development is China's strategic choice which will never change, and it is a solemn commitment China has made to the world.

U.S. Lags in Global Measure of Premature Births

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. Fifteen million babies are born prematurely each year, and the United States fared badly in the first country-by-country global comparison of premature births, which was released Wednesday by the World Health Organization and other agencies. Although American hospitals excel at saving premature infants, the United States is similar to developing countries in the percentage of mothers who give birth before their children are due, the study’s chief author noted. It does worse than any Western European country and considerably worse than Japan or the Scandinavian countries. That stems from the unique American combination of many pregnant teenagers and many women older than 35 who are giving birth, sometimes to twins or triplets implanted after in vitro fertilization, the authors said. Twins and triplets are often deliberately delivered early by Caesarean section to avoid the unpredictable risks of vaginally delivering multiple full-term babies. Also, many American women of childbearing age have other risk factors for premature birth, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking habits. And the many women who lack health insurance often do not see doctors early in their pregnancies, when problems like high blood pressure or genital infections can be headed off. Experts do not know all the elements that can set off early labor. Seeing similar problems simultaneously in Africa and the United States “is really a tale of two planets,” said Dr. Joy Lawn, director of global policy for Save the Children and the report’s chief author. The report, three years in the making, is the first to compare premature birthrates in 184 countries. It was produced jointly by the W.H.O., Save the Children, the March of Dimes and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which has more than 400 member organizations. Other contributors include nearly 40 major American, European and United Nations health and foreign aid agencies and foundations. The report’s conclusions about the United States are similar to those in a 2009 report by the federal government, which found that high rates of premature birth are the main reason this country has infant mortality rates higher than those of other wealthy countries. Very poor countries have high rates of premature births for different reasons: women have many babies, adolescent girls become pregnant at even earlier ages, and infections that can prompt early labor are more common. Nine of the 11 countries in which 15 percent or more of all births are preterm are in Africa; the other two are Pakistan and Indonesia. The United States shares the 12 percent range with Kenya, Turkey, Thailand, East Timor and Honduras, meaning one in nine births is early. The rate in the United States has risen 30 percent since 1981. Most European countries, Canada and Australia are in the 7- to 9-percent range. While agreeing that the United States does poorly compared with Europe, Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, took issue with equating it to Africa. African data is shakier, said Dr. Guttmacher, who read a draft of the report. Also, he said, the report counts only premature births, not stillbirths. In this country, a fetus in danger is delivered early, a practice that raises the preterm birth count, while in much of Africa, the infant would die and not be counted. Premature infants are, of course, much more likely to die in poor countries. In the United States, an infant born before 28 weeks has a 90 percent chance of surviving, though often with disabilities, while in most of Africa such a child has a 90 percent chance of dying, according to the report. (The report defines full-term as 39 weeks; other authorities use 37 to 40 weeks.) After pneumonia, complications of premature birth are the second-highest cause of death in infants, the report said. More than 60 percent of the 1.1 million babies who die of such birth complications every year are in Africa or South Asia. Many could be easily and cheaply saved, the report said. Steroid injections for mothers in early labor, which help develop immature fetal lungs and cost only $1, could save almost 400,000 lives a year. Teaching “kangaroo care” — wrapping the baby against the mother’s chest to keep it warm and promote breast-feeding — could save an additional 450,000. Wiping first-aid cream on the stump of the umbilical cord and having antibiotics on hand to fight pneumonia would save more lives, the report said. The report took years to produce because there is no global database, Dr. Lawn said, and many countries measure pregnancies differently — by the baby’s weight or the mother’s last period, for example. The spread of ultrasound machines has made measurement more accurate, she said. Because the triggers for premature labor are not fully understood, the poor performance by the United States is partly a mystery, Dr. Guttmacher said. “This underscores the need for more research,” he said. In his study of 2,100 Mexican-Americans and immigrants from Mexico, Dr. Radek K. Bukowski, an expert on preterm birth at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, found that the longer a woman lived in this country, the greater her chances of giving birth prematurely. The risk was 4 percent for recent immigrants, 7 percent for those living here less than a decade and 10 percent for citizens. Even after controlling for risk factors like age, poverty, smoking, obesity and diabetes, “we really don’t have an explanation for what’s behind it,” Dr. Bukowski said. “But whatever it is, it’s not genetic. It’s something they acquire here.” And Dr. Gordon C. S. Smith, an expert in the same field at the University of Cambridge, noted that his native Scotland had many of the same risk factors as the United States — teenage pregnancies, poverty, obesity and older mothers — and yet had much lower rates. “If somebody had a simple explanation of why the U.K. and Europe do much better, I wouldn’t believe them,” Dr. Smith said. “The reality is, for most preterm births, we just don’t understand the cause.” The report singled out some countries for reducing their rates of premature birth. Croatia, Ecuador and Estonia improved rapidly, Dr. Lawn said. Croatia was easy to explain: a war ended. The other two countries became wealthier and used some of that wealth to saving babies’ lives. The report also praised Turkey and Sri Lanka for cutting their rates rapidly. Sri Lanka made sure pregnant women were visited frequently by trained midwives. Turkey even paid rural women to go to hospitals to give birth and created “maternity homes” where they waited out their pregnancies’ final days.

Wife of Bahrain activist says he will not end his hunger strike despite court review
Khadija al-Musawi said her husband, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, told her that Monday’s court decision does not change his demand for an immediate release — which has become a centerpiece of anti-government protests in recent weeks. “His condition to stop the hunger strike is to be free,” said al-Musawi. “If not, then the option is to die, and his death will be his freedom.” Al-Khawaja and seven other opposition figures received life sentences last year from a military-led tribunal, which was created by Bahrain’s anti-Shia leaders as part of crackdowns against an uprising by the nation’s Shiite majority. A court on Monday ordered a full re-examination of the cases — effectively a retrial — for the group that received life sentences and 14 others given lesser jail terms after being accuses of anti-state crimes. Seven people among the entire 21-member group were sentenced in absentia. The ruling, however, did not mandate their release during the review. Just one activist, whose sentence was reduced to six months, was freed Monday on time served. At least 80 people have died in unrest since February 2011 on this strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Hundreds also have been arrested or purged from jobs as part of pressure on the opposition, which says it seeks a greater voice in Bahrain’s affairs. Bahrain’s monarchy has made very little concessions, which not enough to satisfy demands of protesters calling for the ruling dynasty to give up its control of government. Clashes take place nearly every day — with al-Khawaja emerging recently as a powerful rallying point for demonstrators since he began his hunger strike Feb. 8. On Tuesday, riot police used tear gas and stun grenades and protesters hurled firebombs during clashes after marches to mark May Day. A statement by the largest Shiite political group, Al Wefaq, demanded that “all political prisoners should be released.” Last month, Bahrain rejected a request by Denmark to take custody of al-Khawaja, 51, who also is a Danish citizen from his years in self-exile. Shortly after Monday’s court decision, al-Khawaja was visited by the Danish ambassador in a prison hospital ward, said his wife, al-Musawi. She said al-Khawaja repeated his claims that he was force-fed with nasal tubes and IVs in the past week. Bahrain denied the charges, saying he agreed to all treatments. Al-Khawaja has been described by relatives as weak, but able to hold conversations and in generally good spirits. In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office welcomed Bahrain’s move to re-examine the cases against al-Khawaja and the others. A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said Bahraini authorities have now “recognized the importance of moving away from military justice for civilians.” Human Rights Watch on Monday called on Bahraini authorities to free al-Khawaja and 13 other jailed opposition leaders. “The military court’s original verdict was absolutely mind-boggling. It did not mention a single actual criminal offense beyond acts relating to their basic human rights,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and his co-defendants should not have to spend even one more day in prison for so-called crimes of speech and peaceful assembly.” A similar retrial process is under way in a civilian court for 20 medical professionals convicted by the military-led tribunal of anti-state crimes and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. The next hearing in their case is scheduled for May 10.

Hundreds protest in Alexandria after violent clashes in Cairo

Egyptian protesters have staged a massive rally in the city of Alexandria after 20 people were killed in clashes between pro-junta thugs and demonstrators in the capital, Cairo. Chanting anti-junta slogans, the protesters on Wednesday marched through the coastal city to protest the violence in the capital. The protesters shouted "Down with military rule" and “God is great." "The incident in Cairo today crossed the line. Lots of Egyptian martyrs are dying. We dreamt of freedom and I still can't imagine that people are still at home after what is happening," said Mohamed Fayed, an Alexandria resident. “We are here not to gain money but we are here because we have to protest until the military step down,” the protester said. Blaming the ruling generals for the violence, several presidential candidates suspended their election campaigns. Some politicians have boycotted a meeting with the ruling generals in protest against the deadly chaos. Egypt has been grappling with post-revolution unrest for more than a year now. The protesters want an end to military rule and the transfer of power to a civilian government. Egypt's presidential election is scheduled to be held on May 23-24, and a run-off will follow on June 16-17 if necessary.