Thursday, May 17, 2012

Russia says action on Syria, Iran may go nuclear

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
warned on Thursday that military action against sovereign states could lead to a regional nuclear war, starkly voicing Moscow's opposition to Western intervention ahead of a G8 summit at which Syria and Iran will be discussed. "Hasty military operations in foreign states usually bring radicals to power," Medvedev, president for four years until Vladimir Putin's inauguration on May 7, told a conference in St. Petersburg in remarks posted on the government's website. "At some point such actions which undermine state sovereignty may lead to a full-scale regional war, even, although I do not want to frighten anyone, with the use of nuclear weapons," Medvedev said. "Everyone should bear this in mind." Medvedev gave no further explanation. Nuclear-armed Russia has said publicly that it is under no obligation to protect Syria if it is attacked, and analysts and diplomats say Russia would not get involved in military action if Iran were attacked. Russia has adamantly urged Western nations not to attack Iran to neutralise its nuclear programme or intervene against the Syrian government over bloodshed in which the United Nations says its forces have killed more than 9,000 people. Medvedev will represent Russia at the Group of Eight summit in place of Putin, whose decision to stay away from the meeting in the United States was seen as muscle-flexing in the face of the West. Putin said previously that threats will only encourage Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Analysts have said that Medvedev also meant that regional nuclear powers such as Israel, Pakistan and India could get involved into a conflict. As president, Medvedev instructed Russia to abstain in a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution that authorised NATO intervention in Libya, a decision Putin implicitly criticised when he likened the resolution to "medieval calls for crusades". Medvedev rebuked Putin for the remark, and some Kremlin insiders have said the confrontation over Libya was a factor in Putin's decision to return to the presidency this year instead of letting his junior partner seek a second term. Russia has since accused NATO of overstepping its mandate under the resolution to help rebels oust long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, and has warned it will not let anything similar happen in Syria. Since Putin announced plans last September to seek a third presidential term and make Medvedev prime minister, Russia has vetoed two Security Council resolutions condemning Assad's government, one of which would have called on him to cede power. Russia's G8 liaison Arkady Dvorkovich said Russia will try to influence the final version of the G8 statement at a summit in Camp David this weekend to avoid a "one-sided" approach that would favour the Syrian opposition. "In the G8 final statement we would like to avoid the recommendations similar to those which were forced upon during the preparations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions," Dvorkovich said. "A one-sided signal is not acceptable for us." Russia successfully managed to water down the part of the statement on Syria at a G8 summit in France in May 2011, removing the calls for action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We believe that the United Nations is the main venue to discussing such issues," Dvorkovich said. LAST APPEARANCE The G8 summit is likely to be the last appearance among all the leaders of industrialised nations for Medvedev, who embraced U.S. President Barack Obama's "reset", improving strained ties between the nations. Dvorkovich said Putin's absence from the summit, the first time a Russian president has skipped one, would not affect the outcome: "All the leaders, I saw their reaction, are ready to comprehensively work with the chairman of the government (Medvedev)." Dvorkovich said that at a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev will raise opposition to attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation which will address human rights violations in Russia. Such legislation could take a form of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky bill, named after the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009. The Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to death. The bill would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with links to his detention and death as well as those who commit other human rights violations. "New legislation which will address new political issues as imagined by some U.S. congressmen or senators is unacceptable," Dvorkovich said, promising a retaliation.

Zardari’s wisdom pays off

wisdom has paid off. Pakistan was back in the reckoning. The NATO invitation for the Chicago conference on Afghanistan, has been a major breakthrough. Suggestions were mooted in these columns twice during last two weeks about an expeditious settlement of an issue, which has been hanging fire unnecessarily for past many months. Finally when the President took matters in his hands, things seem to move forward, in different fields, be these oil and gas, electricity issue, or the delicate foreign affairs. Now the result is there for every one to see/ The air dash to Kabul of the US head of state and signing of a strategic treaty, without Pakistani being a party, had rung the alarm bell for Islamabad. Prior to that Secretary of State Hillary had delivered a rather unwarranted lecture in India, sermonising Pakistan about issues which had no relevance to American foreign policy/ Hillary’s outburst against Pakistan and that too on Indian soil, had hurt the people of Pakistan. However, after great deal of negotiations at civilian and military levels, the quagmire towards which the Pak-USA ties were pushed to, began to be cleared. Pakistan had succeeded in pulling itself out of a difficult situation, a situation which was though correct on principles, was yet an emotionally-driven. The change of foreign minister from Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Hina Rabbani Khar, came as the first indicator of the likely change in the foreign policy guidelines of the country. Hina has been outstanding, know how to deal with the situation as a patriotic Pakistani. She has foresight, and is articulate. She had pursued the difficult foreign policy subject tactfully. However on the sensitive issue of reopening of NATO supplies through Pakistan, blocked since the attack of Salala checkpost last year in November, she was a bit hard, but Zardari was there to keep a vigil on the moves the foreign office or the minister incharge was trying to attempt, or had attempted at different times. The invitation to President Zardari for the important Chicago conference, is of paramount importance. It had restored Pakistan’s place on an issue of vital import for Pakistan. Had Pakistan been bypassed at the multilateral moot, it could well have been a disaster. Hostility to Pakistan had been building up in America with senators and even the Intelligence chief of the Senate committee Fienstien had begin to demand sanctions and suspension of trade and aid relations with Pakistan, Islamabad has already made a huge mistake when General Musharraf brought into action a plan to attack and take over Kargil outposts, ten miles inside India of the line of control without even informing the prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf, part of a “gang of four” at that time, executed a plan which late General Ziaul Haq had disapproved after losing the Siachen glacier to Indians in 1984. Zia had acted wisely because a counter move to provide a handle to the government to bargain on Siachen, was full of risks. It could have spilled out a full-fledged war between India and Pakistan, with dangerous consequences for both sides. Musharraf, General Mahmood, commanding the 10th corps in Rawalpindi, and the then chief of the general staff, General Aziz, and a former Pakistan ambassador to Washington Brig Javed, had launched a military operation, taking 140 abandoned Indian outposts inside the line of control in Kashmir on the Indian side. They never bothered to even consult, much less, take into confidence an elected government of the time. This was their biggest folly. Military should remember that nowhere in the world in the post-second world war era, it had succeeded on its own in peace and war. Sir Winston Churchill won the war for England and the allies, Indira Gandhi won the war against Pakistan in 1971. Ayub Khan lost the 1965 war with India because the entire move of sending infiltrators into Kashmir to liberate it from Indian yoke, was ill-conceived. Pakistan did succeed in getting control of the Indian territory, and drew an honourable Tashkent agreement in December 1965, but the defeat was in terms of strategy. Pakistan was an advancing army, and yet it was halted by the Indians when our troops were about to take control of the Indian supply route near the “chota tawi river” in occupied Kashmir. India diverted the war to International borders, and entire plan, fizzled out like house of cards. The 1971 story with General Yayha in control of the country, is better not repeated or commented upon. The Chinese, angry over our unilateral ceasefire in 1965, had refused to extent any more military support to Pakistan, making it clear that theirs being a peoples army, cannot back any operation by Pakistani military against its own people. General Zia lost Siachen and hushed it up, saying not a blade of grass grows there. Benazir was the first to shout at the top of her voice as opposition leader that Pakistan had lost its valuable territory. Musharraf lost Siachen and looked towards Nawaz Sharif to extract the Pakistani troops from a hopeless situation. They had advanced well inside the Indian occupied Kashmir to occupy vantage points and peaks, but the Indian army, and political leadership, confused in the beginning, woke up to the grim reality to realise that it was not an indigenous movement against Indian occupation, but regular Pakistani troops had been in operation for three month. They regalvanised themselves and brought the Bofors guns to pound on the Pakistani military and bunkers, causing huge casualties of our officers and soldiers. Nawaz Sharif pulled them out from a difficult situation and Pakistani troops were safely evacuated. Nawaz saved the Pakistan army from humiliation, in which Musharraf and his three other wizards had placed them in. It was Kargil fiasco that changed the entire concept of terrorism to mammoth disadvantage of Pakistan. The world bought the Indian version that Pakistan army was sponsoring state terrorism in Kashmir, sending troops to destabilise the region. The USA not only agreed to Indian version, but tilted towards India, whereas prior to that it had always supported the idea of Kashmir being a disputed territory. Musharraf caused irreparable disservice to Pakistan. Islamabad was high and dry, all alone, totally isolated internationally. In the case of NATO supplies also, Pakistan should have listened to American pleas for bargain, and benefits they were offering to Pakistan for their silly attack on Salala. Now the wisdom has dawned on Pakistan that America cannot be placed in a difficult situation in an election year where President Obama’s future political career may be at stake. However, it remains to be seen as to what kind of bargains had been struck. An apology is still due from America, and restoration of aid, and trade links, suspended since long, now needs to be restored. White House and the State Department must realise that Zardari too has to face the electorate. He needs to present something to his people for face saving. I think Americans must start paying for every truck and tanker carrying supplies for NATO and declare their contents in writing to Islamabad authorities. Further concessions for being ally, especially in war on terror and for keeping Afghanistan stabilised, are overdue from United States, However, ever since President Zardari had taken control of the domestic and foreign affairs in his hands, prospects for betterment appear in sight. He has acted in time, and this must be recognised.

Coal project shelving charge on Nawaz

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Sindh General Secretary Taj Haider on Tuesday alleged that it was Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party who stopped the 5000MW-Keti Bundar project, the Thar Coal Project, for which PPP made Coal Development Authority and who stopped Oil and Gas exploration in Sindh.He said that the 5000 MW Keti Bunder Project running on Thar Coal was expected to come on line in 2000. This project and other projects based on indigenous fuels would have made Pakistan an energy surplus country. He said that it’s a mockery that those who are responsible for the energy crisis are shouting over load-shedding crises in the country. He claimed that the sabotage of development of home-produced fuels in Sindh and stopping of energy projects in Sindh were done with the sole purpose of creating a justification for the controversial Kalabagh Dam project. He claimed that the greatest damage was done by revising the agreed tariff structure of the IPPs. Tariffs that envisaged a two cent reduction after every 10 years and the handing over of the IPPs after 30 years were changed to a high uniform tariff for the entire life cycle of IPPs. Under the agreements concluded by Benazir Bhutto IPP tariffs would have come down to two cents per KWH in 2015 and the plants would be handed over to us by 2025. Taj Haider concluded that the building of infrastructure and especially new power plants takes a lot of effort, finance and time saying that unfortunately, Mian Sahib does not realize the hard facts because he has never built anything for the people.Dr Adib Rizvi meets Qaim: Renowned urologist and head of Sindh Institute of Urology Transplant (SIUT) Dr. Adeebul Hasan Rizvi today called on Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah at C.M House. He discussed the matters of SIUT and presented problems that he faced. Chief Minister Sindh assured his support for resolving the problems soon.

From Salala to Chicago: Pakistan's difficult decisions
By Nasim Zehra
On May 14, 2012, Pakistan took a wise step toward transforming the potentially impotent Afghan reconciliation efforts into some that may be relatively productive and viable. As all interlocutors involved have acknowledged, without Pakistan's sincere efforts at reconciliation, only instability in Afghanistan can be guaranteed. The decision-makers in Pakistan are increasingly recognizing that leveraging their ability to create instability in Afghanistan is no longer a desirable policy option. Irrespective of what their fears, temptations and externally-created compulsions are, Pakistan's civilian and military rulers understand that three decades of instability in Afghanistan have generated an acute security crisis at home. As Washington shifts its Afghanistan policy away from a focus on force to a policy that finally moves towards political reconciliation -- as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recommended in her February 2011 Asia Society address -- it appears logical for Islamabad to seek a genuine partnership with Washington and Kabul for peace in Afghanistan. Accordingly, to revive a partnership with the United States on the Afghan reconciliation process, Islamabad has recognized the importance of sending a positive signal by making tangible moves toward reopening NATO ground supply routes through Pakistan. U.S. and NATO officials had made it quite clear that Pakistan's participation in the imminent summit in Chicago was contingent upon its lifting of the blockade on NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan, a move that could also score points for the ruling party in the next elections. The Pakistani government, with its political opposition vehemently opposed to the reopening of the routes to NATO, has taken a major calculated risk in making the announcement. Washington has not yet made a public apology for the November U.S.-ISAF helicopter strike at Salala, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers; the terms for NATO's use of Pakistani supply routes are not yet finalized; Pakistani officials have not yet negotiated a deal ensuring that drone attacks are no longer conducted unilaterally by the CIA; and ISAF has given no concrete guarantee that there will be no repeat of the deadly attacks on Salala. Drawing on these facts, the opposition accuses the government of abject weakness, incompetence, selling out, and surrendering to U.S. power. It is being blamed for its failure to fully leverage control of the supply routes to Pakistan's advantage, and for making this decision to please Washington. Indeed, while at least some of these accusations cannot be rejected without careful consideration, the fact remains that governments must take calculated risks, and they must balance the potential costs and benefits of those risks. That is what Pakistan's present government has done. In a less than perfect context, it concluded that the NATO summit is important because it brings Pakistan into the policy-making discussion regarding the future of Afghanistan. Clearly, when Karzai and the United States are having that discussion -- and now also pursuing the dialogue with the Taliban that Pakistan has been advocating -- Pakistan must not abandon the opportunity to be part of the process. While Pakistan's relevance to Afghanistan's peace is arguably greater than that of other countries, Pakistan cannot "go it alone." Finding a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is not a unilateral affair. Peace cannot and has not come by simply engaging with or trying to control the Taliban. All the parties involved need to work in partnership, on the best negotiated terms possible. These realizations within Pakistan augur well for the Afghan reconciliation process, but some domestic truths still need to be acknowledged in Washington. For reasons of pragmatism, self-interest, and in order to maintain a viable partnership with Pakistan, the Obama administration needs to go beyond its present policy of stalling on issues that are of immediate concern to Pakistan. First, Pakistan needs an immediate apology, which the U.S. president himself must issue at his Chicago meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. Second, the United States must draw up measures to ensure Pakistan's prior knowledge of planned drone strikes, as well as its clearance of intended targets, areas of operation, and the number of attacks. Third, both nations need to agree on fair payments for the use of Pakistani ground supply routes to Afghanistan. And fourth, NATO must make comprehensive guarantees that a repeat of Salala never happens. These steps would create a Pakistan-U.S. partnership that genuinely promotes their shared objective of regional peace and stability, not to mention the likelihood that they would make this highly controversial partnership more palatable to the Pakistani public and political opposition. Pakistan's government has indeed taken the risky political path to pursue responsible policy, and so must Washington. President Obama needs to be the statesman, and leverage his credentials as the one who authorized the successful raid on Osama bin Laden's compound to invest in a peace partnership with Pakistan, and not shy off for fear of Republican attacks, even for an apology for the Salala killings. Meanwhile, given the political, security and financial realities, Afghanistan's future will realistically be determined by a four-way engagement, involving Afghan political leaders, the Taliban, Pakistan and the United States. It would be both unwise and counter-productive for Pakistan to stay on the margins, particularly now that Pakistani and American interests converge in Afghanistan. Considering the typical framing of Pakistan's popular- and political-level foreign policy debates, the opening of NATO supply routes and Pakistan's participation in the Chicago summit may in some circles be interpreted as damaging to Pakistan's security interests, undermining national pride, and working against the wishes of the people of Pakistan. However, it is important to be clear where the interest of the people lies within the context of foreign and security policy. It lies in creating security and socio-economic conditions within which governments can fulfill their Constitutional responsibilities towards the people. Hence, the government should make decisions that promote internal security, economic prosperity, social development, and the defense and dignity of the country. This is where the people's relevance is key. The public's sentiments cannot dictate decisions on whether NATO supply routes should be shut or open; governments must decide -- and take responsibility. In Pakistan, like in many other countries, the people's sentiments have often been part of a circular political strategy: institutions opposing civilian policies fed their views to a segment of the public, and were then played back as peoples' sentiments. But another interesting question within Pakistan's domestic context is, how valid is criticism of the parliamentary process that presented terms for the re-set of Pakistan-U.S. relations? Many argue that policy-making is an executive function, and thus handing this task to the parliament was misguided. On one hand, the parliament's involvement on a key foreign policy issue that has been discussed and debated for three decades was necessary to get a general consensus. On the other hand, the criticism that the issue dragged on for too long is valid. The long drawn-out process triggered the law of diminishing returns to some extent, a fact that Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman continuously raised with the Pakistani government. Washington was almost in awe of the process, and began recognizing its own mistakes, including unilateral drone attacks, its hesitation to re-negotiate the terms of NATO supply routes, and blocking the release of the Coalition Support Funds (CSF). And when the U.S. was ready to make an apology, Pakistan suggested it be held back until the parliamentary process ended. A senior White House official and the Pakistani ambassador jointly announced an agreement to release the withheld CSF, but the parliamentary process dragged on, and talks on the NATO supply routes were not resumed. With the deadlock on the supply routes now broken, Pakistan will take a seat at an important global policy reflection and discussion forum on Afghanistan and the region. And, provided that seat is wisely utilized, Pakistan will have also promoted its own security and economic interests -- just as it is doing in opening up trade and conflict resolution dialogue with India. Fortunately, as PML-N President and leading opposition politician Nawaz Sharif repeatedly says, there is national consensus at least on these landmark policy moves.
Nasim Zehra is the host of "Policy Matters" and the Director of Current Affairs on Dunya TV, Pakistan. She is the author of the book, From Kargil to the Coup (forthcoming).

Two Shia policemen shot dead in Quetta

Two police personnel, belonging to Shia sect, were shot dead and another two were injured in a targeted attack in the Sardar Karez area on Thursday. Police said a police van was on a routine patrol when unidentified men opened fire on the vehicle in the Sardar Karez area of Eastern Bypass. Two officials, belonging to Hazara community, were killed on the spot and another two sustained injuries. Heavy contingents of police and FC rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area. The bodies were shifted to the Bolan Hospital. The deceased were identified as constable Ghulam Murtaza and constable Sanaullah and those injured were ASI Muhammad Hussain and Constable Deen Muhammad. “It could be a case of sectarian killing,” a police official said. No group has claimed responsibility so far. Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi and Chief Minister Aslam Raisani condemned the attack. A case has been registered against unidentified assailants.

Bahraini police fire tear-gas at peaceful crowd
Bahraini security forces have once again used tear-gas on peaceful protesters in the country’s capital, Manama. While the mainstream media remains silent, Bahrain’s government has been suppressing anti-regime demonstrations for over a year now. A video posted on YouTube on Thursday shows security forces using tear-gas against people quietly strolling in the Bilad Al Qadeem district of Manama. There have been no reports of injuries or casualties. The incident continues a week of violent government crackdowns on protesters.
On Tuesday night security forces attacked protesters in the villages of Sitra and Dair using tear-gas and rubber bullets, Press TV reported. Earlier on Monday, Bahraini forces suppressed an anti-regime demonstration in the capital, using the same set of non-lethal weaponry. The protests against the Al Khalifa family, who have ruled Bahrain for two centuries, began in February 2011 as the Arab Spring revolutions swept across the region. Around 70 per cent of Bahrain’s population are Shiites, while the ruling family are Sunni Muslims. This fact adds sectarian divisions to the unrest. Protesters are also demanding the release of political prisoners who were sentenced to life in jail. The UN estimates that over 50 people have been killed as a result of police brutality during anti-regime protests since the beginning of the uprising last year.

Education under attack: Girls’ degree college blown up in Jamrud

The Express Tribune
In yet another attempt of targeting the girls educational institutions, unidentified militants blew up Jamrud Degree College for Girls in Khyber Agency on Wednesday, an official said. The official of the Jamrud political administration said that the students decorated the building for the upcoming sports gala. “Militants have blown up the college damaging its boundary wall badly,” he said. Official said that Jamrud is a peaceful area as compared to other areas of Khyber Agency but militants were targeting the educational institutes unabated in the area. “Security forces cordoned off the area, however no loss of life was reported,” Political Tehsildar of Jamrud, Asmatullah Wazir, said. An education officer of Khyber Agency, Ashraf Afridi told The Express Tribune that the number of destroyed educational institutions has risen to 65. “We don’t know why militants are targeting schools and not letting the students to participate in the healthy activities and acquire education,” he said. He said that the same college was targeted by militants in 2010 as well two days before the annual sports week damaging three classrooms. Likewise, the Government Girls’ High School Ghundai Jamrud was also destroyed when three students won prizes for showing outstanding performance in athletics in the same year. He went on to add that whenever the students intend to hold a sports week or any other activity especially in the girls schools the militants target them. “The sports event would now be held in the nearby sports complex after three days,” he said.

Barack Obama and François Hollande: new style, same substance

When France's Socialist president, François Hollande,
arrives at the White House for breakfast with Barack Obama
on Friday, the US right might be tempted to dust down the old freedom fries metaphors. After all, Hollande's main sticking point with Washington and Nato is his election promise to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year – one year earlier than Sarkozy's promised 2013 and two years earlier than Nato's agreed 2014 finish date. But it would be wrong to think that the social-democrat, consensus-style pragmatist Hollande marks a return of cheese eating surrender monkeys out to make trouble for Washington. In terms of personality and style, Hollande and Obama would seem to have a lot more in common than Obama and the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy. Both come from broadly centre-left ground. Both have taught at universities. Hollande speaks English, whereas Sarkozy struggled. The more impulsive Sarkozy marked a change in Paris's policy towards Washington. He was an unabashed Atlanticist who was close to George Bush, ate burgers at the Bush family ranch, declared his admiration for Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elvis, went jogging in a New York Police Department T-shirt and called the US a "moral and spiritual" model. Sarkozy and Obama, despite their clear public unity and good working relationship, were never as pally behind the scenes as Sarkozy would have liked. The classified US memos released by WikiLeaks depicted Sarkozy as sometimes erratic, undiplomatic and hyperactive, despite being the most pro-US French president since the second world war. Sarkozy put an end to the 2003 Paris-Washington spat over the Iraq war and, to America's delight, brought France back into Nato's integrated command amid criticism from Hollande's Socialist party that he was making France a poodle to the US. But Hollande will not reverse those moves, even if he wants extra assurances on issues such as European defence. Paris-Washington relations are likely to stay close and change very little, with France remaining a firm, if independent, ally. Hollande recently said he would "assert France's independence without making things difficult for Barack Obama". Although he won't row back on his popular promise of an early French exit from Afghanistan – he has declared "Our mission in Afghanistan is complete" – there could be a compromise on the wording, substance and staggered timings of a withdrawal, not as a capitulation to pressure from the US and other unhappy Nato partners but to deal with the tricky logistics of a fast exit. Afghanistan will be a key topic at the G8 and in Chicago, but so will the euro crisis. On several economic points, Obama and Hollande are close, particularly on Hollande's call for growth measures to temper the one-size-fits-all austerity drive. Hillary Clinton has openly praised the quest for more growth measures in Europe. Hollande's resolve to put in place higher tax rates for bigger earners, put pressure on fat cats and give public support to small businesses are all shared by Obama. At the G8 summit at Camp David, Hollande will seek to reassure world leaders that wanting more growth does not mean copping out on cutting public debt. Pierre Moscovici, the new French finance minister, said on taking office that "public debt is an enemy" and the government must reduce the deficit. Dominique Moïsia senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations said the Hollande-Obama style was likely to be defined by "gravity and serenity". He added: "I don't see things changing that much really. There will be a different style. In some ways in their values Obama and Hollande are closer than Obama and Sarkozy were." He said Afghanistan could make things slightly harder for Obama on the eve of an election but there was a kind of resignation in Washington that France had made up its mind although there could be some accommodation on the technicalities.

The legacy of Donna Summer, America's disco queen, is lasting

Much like the expressive era that her music defined, Donna Summer danced her way through the 1970s with extraordinary success, posting successive hits that electrified dance floors and prompted her coronation as America's queen of disco.
But her own life was marked by the highs and lows of the ballads that she energetically sang, and even at the height of her popularity, she once took steps toward suicide -- only to be stopped by the interruption of hotel maids. She overcame the negative dimensions of relentless public attention, and her legacy as a genre-leading vocalist endures decades later among music enthusiasts, even resulting in an appearance a few years ago on "American Idol." Summer died Thursday morning from cancer, her publicist, Brian Edwards, said. She was surrounded by her family in Florida, he said.Said her family in a statement: "Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy." Summer, who was born in Boston and whose father was a butcher and mother a schoolteacher, sang from the moment she learned to talk, and her debut performance came in church at age 10 when the scheduled singer didn't show and the pastor asked Donna to step in. Summer later recalled that the church performance left worshipers in tears. In her singing career, she won five Grammys, and while she is iconic in the disco genre, her Grammy wins were also in the R&B, rock, inspirational and dance categories. This won't be our 'Last Dance' to Donna Summer: A playlist "Her talent was a true gift to the music industry," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy. At the height of her career, she and Casablanca Records created a sex symbol persona for her, and in an October 1977 cover story for Ebony, she remarked about her other nicknames: Queen of Love and Symbol of Eros. "Well, you have to get people's attention some kind of way," Summer told the magazine, "but I'm not just sex, sex, sex. I would never want to be a one-dimensional person like that. "I can sing songs like 'Love to Love You, Baby,' but I can also sing ballads, light opera, things from musical comedies, church hymns -- all kinds of things. Plus I can write, act and think." Summer added that she didn't "want to be known for just one thing." In a 2003 interview with CNN, she said the initial absence of a manager led her to do provocative photo shoots. Her public image as a sex symbol and diva conflicted with her religious upbringing, she said. Her grandfather was a minister and her father a church deacon. "Yes, it was a big complex and the image was sort of created around me," Summer said. "I was sort of there, but not consciously there. And I didn't have anybody sort of on my side at that point, fighting for me, except for me, being in the middle. And then people would say, you know, 'Lay down here and do this.' And you know, whatever," Summer said. Her big break came when she was a teenager and auditioned in New York for a European version of "Hair." She landed a role and went to Europe. When she achieved success by her mid-20s, she wasn't able to handle it well. "It was tough," Summer said. "I think success is always a surprise, you know." She eventually suffered depression and found herself in an abusive relationship. "If people are in abusive relationships, I think they need to get out of them or at least get help," Summer said. She lived in fear during that relationship, she said. "Thank God this person was from Europe, so they were deported. And then I was able to sort of be free, but I was afraid for years," she said. Her hits included "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," and "She Works Hard for the Money." Summer first rose to fame the mid-1970s, thanks to "Love to Love You Baby." The song, with Summer's whispered vocals and orgasmic groans supported by heavily synthesized backing tracks, fueled the decade's disco mania and hit No. 2 in 1976. Summer followed the song with such hits as "I Feel Love," "Last Dance" and a disco version of the Richard Harris hit "MacArthur Park," which outdid Harris' version by hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. It was Summer's first of four chart-toppers. But with her 1979 album "Bad Girls," Summer broke out of the disco mold as the genre, stimulated by the success of the Bee Gees' "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, was feeling a backlash. "Bad Girls" demonstrated Summer's vocal and stylistic range and produced two No. 1 hits, "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls," as well as a Top 10 ballad, "Dim All the Lights."However, Summer had some trouble adjusting to the changing times. Her next album, "The Wanderer," went for more of a rock feel. It produced a Top 10 hit in the title track but fared relatively poorly on the charts -- especially disappointing after the success of "Bad Girls," a double album that spent five weeks at No. 1. It wasn't until 1983's "She Works Hard for the Money," which became a ubiquitous video as well as a big radio hit, that Summer's fame approached its late '70s zenith. In 2003, she wrote of the demands of being superstar in a memoir, "Ordinary Girl: The Journey." She disclosed the pressures associated with being a superstar and revealed that at the peak of her popularity, the disco queen even contemplated suicide. In an interview with CNN that year, she was asked about sticking her foot out of a hotel window to get a feel of whether to jump. "No, I wasn't getting a feel. I was jumping over. I was attempting to go. I didn't plan it. I just decided, I'm out of here," Summer told CNN. Then the maids walked in. She stopped herself. "Then I sought help. I got help. I realized that I had a serious problem with depression, and I went to a doctor and he gave me some medication," Summer said. More recently, she appeared on the finale of the popular show "American Idol" in 2008 and performed some of her greatest hits with the show's leading female singers. That year, she released her album "Crayons," and in an interview with CNN, she spoke of her musical "mission." "I don't like to be categorized because I think that I am an instrument, and if you play me, I'll make whatever particular sound is supposed to come out for that color," Summer said. "And so, in the overall spectrum of things, I'm just trying to be true to my, what I feel my mission is."

Syria's Assad: Nations that sow chaos will suffer

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that countries trying to "sow chaos" in Syria could be infected with it themselves, an apparent warning to Arab Gulf nations that back the insurgency aimed at forcing him from power. Assad's remarks, to a Russian TV channel, came after U.N. staff monitoring an increasingly shaky ceasefire were caught up in an attack that killed at least 21 people, and had to spend a night with rebel forces. The stranding of the observers and new claims of a massacre by Assad's security forces underscored the relentlessness of the violence that continues to rage 14 months into mass protests and an insurrection against the Syrian strongman. Assad said countries hostile to him and his government that may have believed he would follow in the footsteps of four Arab leaders ousted after popular protests now knew better. "For the leaders of these countries, it's becoming clear that this is not 'Spring' but chaos, and as I have said, if you sow chaos in Syria you may be infected by it yourself, and they understand this perfectly well," he told Russia's Rossiya-24 TV channel. Assad's government has repeatedly accused foreign states of backing a "terrorist" campaign in Syria, an apparent reference to Gulf powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have argued that Syrian insurgents should be supplied with weapons. Those accusations have grown louder following a series of bomb attacks on security and military installations in Damascus and other cites that Syria calls proof of a "terrorist" conspiracy. However, the opposition says the state itself organized the attacks in a cynical attempt to discredit the uprising against Assad. Rebel fighters are largely drawn from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, and the uprising has taken on a sectarian tone that emphasizes Assad's status as a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Shi'ism is the dominant sect of his ally Iran whose influence the Sunni-led Gulf Arab states seek to check. In the same interview, Assad said Western sanctions were affecting his country - which has had to scramble to import grains and other staples - but that Syria still had a "wonderful relationship" with non-Western countries. Russia is one of its few allies. U.N. MONITORS CAUGHT UP IN FUNERAL ATTACK Six ceasefire monitors caught in the crossfire of Syria's conflict were handed back to their U.N. colleagues by rebels in the northern province of Idlib, after walking into an attack on a funeral that killed at least 21 people. "We gave the six with their cars to a U.N. convoy near the entrance of Khan Sheikhoun. They are all safe, in good health and on their way to Damascus," Free Syrian Army commander Abu Hassan said by satellite phone from the site of the handover. A pro-government TV station said unidentified gunmen opened fire at the funeral. But the rebel commander said a pro-Assad militia was responsible. His forces had the names of at least 27 people killed, he added. Other opposition groups have said at least 66 people were killed. The head of the U.N. monitoring mission, Major-General Robert Mood, confirmed the monitors were heading back to base. "They have departed from Khan Sheikhoun and are on their way back. They expressed to me that they have been well treated," he told reporters in Damascus. He thanked the Syrian government for "facilitating coordination" for the exit of the observers, and to the people of Khan Sheikhoun, about 220 km (140 miles) north of Damascus, for treating them "with respect." "That kind of violence is obviously the kind of violence we don't want to see," he said. "It is not going to contribute constructively to the aspirations of the Syrian people." ACCOUNT OF NEW MASSACRE The handover came as a Britain-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 15 people had been killed since Tuesday when security forces stormed the Shammas district of Homs, parts of which Assad's forces reduced to rubble with artillery fire earlier this year. The group said security forces carried out summary executions in the city. Footage distributed on YouTube showed bodies - some with what looked like gunshot wounds - purported to be those killed during raids in the city. There was no independent confirmation of the claims from within Syria, which has restricted media access during the 14-month-old uprising. The Free Syrian Army has a nominal leader based in Turkey and tenuous ties with the divided political opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), which on Tuesday re-elected Burhan Ghalioun, a secular long-time resident in France, as its leader for another three months. People involved in the vote, which took place in Rome, said Ghalioun was viewed as acceptable to Syria's array of sects and ethnic groups, and to major factions within the umbrella SNC which seeks recognition as the sole legitimate opposition group to Assad. Shortly afterwards, Fawaz Tello, a prominent dissident, resigned from the SNC, the latest of several senior figures to quit the body in recent months. The SNC said he was not a member in the first place, underscoring tensions within the organization. As the SNC debated its leadership, Damascus announced the results of parliamentary elections it points to as proof of Assad's determination to resolve the uprising peacefully.

NAWAZ SHARIF: $32 million money laundering scandal

daily times
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday said it has started investigations against the Sahrif brothers in a $32 million money laundering scandal. “The reference against Sharif brothers was sent by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and it will be decided on merit,” NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal said while addressing a media briefing at the NAB headquarters. Replying to a question about the reports that President Asif Ali Zardari has directed the NAB chairman to initiate an inquiry against the Sharifs and reopen pending cases against them, the spokesman said the president had only directed the NAB chairman to ensure that there was no political victimisation. Malik had earlier claimed he had evidence to prove that the PML-N leaders were involved in laundering $32 million. Iqbal said NAB has so far recovered Rs 2.012 billion from Rental Power Plants (RPPs) on the directives of the Supreme Court (SC). Giving details, he said Rs 109 million were recovered from Pakistan Power House and Walter International, Rs 546 million from Techno Engineering, Rs 50 million from Young Generation, Rs 225 million from Gulf company and Rs 100 million from Reshma company. The bureau has recorded the statements of former power minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Shaukat Tareen and Liaquat Jatoi, but no money has been recovered from them, he said, adding the three will be summoned again if needed. The NAB spokesman said the Interior Ministry has not yet put the names of ministers involved in RPPs’ case on the Exit Control List (ECL) despite a request by NAB. Responding to a question, he said that nobody has been given clean chit in the case, rather NAB is in the process of recovery from the RPPs. Moreover, the bureau has also sent its teams to inspect the sites of RPPs and teams are busy finalising their reports. Iqbal said NAB was in contact with an army team questioning generals named in NLC corruption reference.

876 security personnel guarding Sharif family
Sharif Family, one of the most politically influence families in the country, and ministers of Punjab province have deputed 876 security personnel to protect their homes, offices and family members.
These security personnel giving round the clock security duty are from police and Elite Force. The cost of their salaries, vehicles and other expenses is millions of rupees annually to national wealth. “But the other scene in the province is hundred of incidents of roberies, terrorism and kidnappings are being held everyday making the law and order situation bad to worse,” security officials told.
Over 100 of security personnel are deputed only for the protection of head of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Sharif and his family. “They are basically responsible for protection of Nawaz Sharif, Captain Safdar, son in law of Nawaz, Mariam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Kulsoom Nawaz and kids of the family,” the sources revealed. “Any movement of these persons means consumption of official resources and such scenes are common in Raiwind, the area where house of Sharif family is situated,” they added. They say security guards for Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and his family inlcuding Hamza Shahbaz, Salman Shahbaz and Nusrat Shahbaz are in addition to guards of Nawaz family. “Deploying government personnel on personal protection is creating a VIP culture in the province,” the sources said. “To improve law and order situation in the province, it would be better for Sharif family to withdraw their guards or at least decrease the number to minimum.”

Dozens protest outside Obama headquarters, consulates

About 75 protesters marched today from President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters to several consulates of countries that belong to NATO, protesting the alliance's involvement in the war in Afghanistan and other military action. Before the march stepped off around noon, the demonstrators lined up in front of a barricade formed by about a dozen Chicago police officers standing behind their bicycles along a sidewalk at 130 E. Randolph St. Many of the demonstrators belonged to Code Pink, which describes itself as a "women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement." Tithe Barry, from Washington, D.C., held a cardboard model of a drone to protest drone strikes by the United States which he said have killed hundreds of innocent people. "Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president, needs to come clean," Barry shouted. "He's not for peace or for ending these outdated wars."
A dozen of the protesters staged what they called a "die-in" -- laying on the ground and pretending to have been struck by a drone. As they laid on the ground, others drew outlines of their bodies on the sidewalk with pink chalk. About 12:30 p.m., the group marched west on Randolph toward Michigan Avenue. Police followed with their bikes to keep protesters off the street as their numbers grew to about 50. The group turned east on Lake Street to stop at the Canadian consulate at 2 Prudential Plaza to protest the use of Canadian troops in Afghanistan. The group then marched north, headed for the British and German consulates north of the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue. By the time they reached the British consulate at 400 N. Michigan Ave., their numbers had grown to about 75 people. As they walked to the German consulate, 625 N. Michigan Ave., the marchers clogged the sidewalk, chanting "Say no to NATO!" and "When drones fly, children die. Stop the war!" Most of the group disbanded at Rush and Huron streets around 1:30 p.m. after taking a group photo. About two dozen protesters stayed after the protest was over and gathered near 676 North Michigan, where they heard an impromptu speech from Tobias Pflueger, who said he is a former member of the European parliament from Germany. He applauded the protesters for their demonstration. "I am happy you are here demonstrating against the war organization NATO," Pflueger said. "When NATO does wars they kill people and they also kill democracies. We will not allow NATO to kill democracy." Pflueger than translated a speech from Inge Hoger, a member of the German parliament, through a megaphone. "I say no to NATO and no to war all over the world," Hoger shouted in English first. "I am here to support the protests of NATO, especially because NATO starts wars all over the world," Pflueger said, translating for Hoger. "The money that is being spent on this occupation in Afghanistan should be spent on a peaceful solution in Afghanistan, and because NATO is a war organization, Germany should pull out of NATO, and NATO should be disbanded."

Balochistan : A Distasteful Joke

The Baloch Hal
Why are there no reactions, both from the government and the civil society, to the brazen and bizarre statement of Balochistan Communication Minister Ali Madad Jattak that there is nothing wrong with indulging into corruption? A person holding a public office and defending corruption would have indeed been kicked out of the cabinet had he lived and worked in a civilized country with a functioning democracy. Mr. Jattak is going to continue to work in his office because he works under a boss who once publicly endorsed possession of fake and fraudulent degrees for the members of the Parliament. Aslam Raisani, Jattak’s boss and Balochistan’s current chief minister, told the media that a degree was a degree whether it was fake or original. This is a sickening state of affairs in Balcohistan where overt defenders of corruption and fraud hold public offices. There is no reaction on the part of the civil society ostensibly because of public sense of powerlessness and despondency. The ordinary citizen in the province is caught between rogue and repressive intelligence agencies, security forces and a bunch of crooks occupying public offices. While talking about the conflict in Balochistan, one key area that almost always remains ignored is the performance of the provincial government. One often hears about the illegal actions of the military and the intelligence agencies, flawed policies of the federal government and a growing rebellion in the province among the youth who aspire to seek independence from Pakistan. What we do sufficiently hear about is the members of the provincial government who get the least attention in the conflict. If not getting attention is a blessing then only ministers in the Balochistan government can explain its benefits. Balochistan has a group of permanent members of the Pakistani Establishment who continue to rule the province during all good or bad times. This bunch of individuals mainly comprises of tribal chiefs and the clergy. They have nominal political affiliations. They switch political loyalties with the change in the federal government. They join the Pakistan Muslim League, either Nawaz or the Quaid-e-Azam League, when this party rules the country but instantly become members or supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party when it comes into power. Thus, there is a little that changes in Balochistan’s internal politics following an electoral process. This group of people will remain in power no matter what Balochistan’s relations with the central government look like. For example, more than half of today’s provincial government comprises of the loyalists of General Musharraf. They immediately become supporters of the PPP as Musharraf lost popularity. Some of them are gradually becoming admirers of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan keeping in view the changing politics in the country. What is missing is the clear absence of a political or civil society-driven movement in Balochistan that calls for accountability of the provincial government. The current assembly of 65 members has only one member of the opposition whereas everyone else is a part of the government as a minister or an adviser. They are corrupt to such an extent that they, just like Mr. Jattak, publicly defend corruption because they know that they are not answerable to anyone for their deeds. While being skeptical and cynical of government policies is a positive attitude in a democratic culture, pessimism and complete disassociation is catastrophic. It offers a free opportunity to politicians to misuse public office and indulge into corruption. Lack of public interest leads to lack of the primary public quest for accountability. No one can help the people of Balochistan but themselves to stand against the status quo. The youth in Balochistan, political parties and the media must play a vibrant role in holding the provincial government accountable just like the way they vigorously fight the federal government for its exploitation of the province’s mineral wealth and committing human rights abuses. The people should give up a policy of forgiving to their elected representatives for whatever nonsensical statements they make. We would also like to urge the Minister to apologize for his remarks. The PPP central leadership should take notice of his remarks and it must discourage such undemocratic attitude in the greater interest of the democracy. Democracy should not be deemed as a means to absolute authority and stark impunity. If unchecked, such arrogant (mis)use of power leads to collapse of democracy in any given society and serve as the catalyst for authoritarianism.

New French govt agrees 30% pay cut for president, ministers

Members of France’s new Socialist-led government will promise Thursday to take a pay cut, a gesture of shared sacrifice by leaders who must now both reduce the country’s massive debts and tackle spiraling unemployment. President Francois Hollande promised during his campaign to protect France’s elaborate social benefit system -- even vowing to roll back some cuts that his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had made -- while also continuing to trim the country’s deficit. France hasn’t balanced a budget in nearly 40 years, and Hollande has promised to eliminate the deficit in 2017. It will be a difficult balancing act for the Socialists, who are taking power in the middle of a global economic slowdown and Europe’s debt crisis. France’s GDP did not grow in the first quarter of the year, and restarting growth will be key to managing the country’s finances. But economists have said growth will require deep reform to France’s inflexible labor market -- and it’s unclear if Hollande is willing to take it on. “Francois Hollande has always said we have to fight the debt, reduce the deficits, secure France’s situation. A country that is indebted is a country that grows poorer,” said the new Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici on BFM television on Thursday. “But responsibility and growth are not mutually exclusive.” He added that the government wouldn’t renege on its campaign promises. Hollande’s new Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday night that the government would start by making its own sacrifice, by cutting the ministers’ salaries by 30 percent. “It’s setting an example,” he said on France-2 television. The cuts will be proposed later in the day when the new Cabinet meets for the first time. But as a series of handovers of power took place Thursday, the emphasis seemed to be more on fulfilling campaign promises to enhance or at least protect benefits than on cutting spending. Employment Minister Michel Sapin said his major challenge would be reducing unemployment that has reached 10 percent and allowing people who started working at a young age to retire earlier than a law passed under Sarkozy currently allows them to. Sarkozy faced down unions and strikes to push the retirement age to 62 from 60, saying it was the only way to save the system. “We need to as quickly as possible put an end to the flagrant injustice put in place by the previous government,” said Sapin after the handover of power. “What’s on the agenda is to ensure the sustainability of our social benefit system that will allow retirees to live.” The new government will also confront major international questions, like Hollande’s promise to withdraw troops by the end of the year from Afghanistan. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, an old friend of Hollande’s, and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a former prime minister, will surely wade into that debate, which will be raised at a NATO summit this weekend in Chicago. Many NATO partners are unhappy with Hollande’s decision. France had previously committed to keeping troops in the country until 2013 -- already faster than the alliance’s timetable.

Opposition arrests spark Bangladesh clashes

Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies
A general strike is under way in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, after 33 senior opposition leaders were charged with involvement in an arson attack during an anti-government strike last month. The main opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) called for Thursday's strike, which they said would take place across the nation, in response to the ruling. The BNP said the court decision was "politically motivated" aimed at crushing "legitimate protests" over the disappearance of a BNP leader. "It's totally unbelievable and a fabricated case," said BNP spokesman Nazrul Islam Khan, "We are awestruck at the court's decision not to grant bail to our top leaders." Khan added that the charges against the men were bailable offences. Following the arrests on Wednesday, there were angry scenes outside the court in Dhaka. Police baton-charged angry demonstrators and a number of vehicles were attacked and set alight in the capital and several other towns, news reports said. ATN Bangla television station said several opposition supporters were arrested. Other stations said at least two vehicles were burned in separate incidents in Dhaka immediately after the ruling. Opposition activists also smashed vehicles in protests in several other towns, news reports said. Those arrested include Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir, the acting secretary of the BNP led by Khaleda Zia, and former Dhaka mayor Sadeq Hossain. Secretary missing The BNP heads the 18-party opposition alliance that has called a series of general strikes to protest alleged government involvement in a politician's disappearance. Jebel Rahman Ghaani, chairman of the opposition Bangladesh National Awami Party, told Al Jazeera "the government has been quite incompetent in the handling of most national issues," particularly, the disappearance of an official in the BNP. The opposition also set a June 10 ultimatum for the government to restore a caretaker government system to oversee the next national elections, due in 2014. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina scrapped the 15 year-old system last year in what the opposition says was part of a plan to rig the elections. The opposition has said it will boycott the elections if the system is not restored. Political tensions have sharply escalated since Elias Ali, an organising secretary in Zia's party, went missing along with his driver on April 17 from a street in Dhaka. Police found his car abandoned in Dhaka and his driver is also missing. The opposition says the government and its security agencies are behind his disappearance. Authorities deny the allegation. As a result of Wednesday's ruling, the 33 defendants will remain in jail until further legal proceedings.

Donna Summer dies
TMZ reports that the Queen of Disco - Donna Summer - died this morning in Florida at age 63 following a battle with cancer. Summer was a 5-time Grammy winner who shot to superstardom in the '70s with iconic hits including Last Dance, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls.

NAB starts inquiry into money laundering case against Sharifs

National Accountability Bureau has started investigating money-laundering allegations against President PML-N Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Spokesperson and Director NAB Zafar Iqbal briefing the media here on Thursday said the bureau has started probing the allegations leveled by Interior Minister Rehman Malik against Nawaz Sharif of money laundering. The investigation would be based strictly on merit, he said. He said NAB so far, on the orders of SC, has recovered Rupees 2 billion from Rental Powerhouses and statements of former minister for power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Shaukat Tareen and Liaquat Jatoi have been recorded but no money has been recovered from them. Furthermore, he added, names of ministers involved in RPPs case have not been placed on Exit Control List. He further said arrest warrant against former Chairman OGRA, Tauqeer Sadiq had been issued while member of OGRA, Mansoor Zafar in gas prices scandal has been arrested and he is being interrogated.

Gilani advises PML-N to read constitution

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday that the political parties that consider it their responsibility to get apex court’s orders into action, should go through the constitution. Speaking to the media persons here after a ceremony held in connection with World Communiccation Day, Gilani made a specific reference to the PML-N when making this statement. He said in court orders it was not mentioned that implementation of court verdicts was responsibility of politicians or N-League. When asked by a reporter if he would be resigning, the prime minister replied “who should I give my resignation to?” He added we are following the constitution of the country. It is not enshrined in the Constitution that any political party, especially the N-League will implement Supreme Court orders, said Gilani. He said that a bunch of people did not want to see his face and want to remove him in order to succeed in their conspiracy to hinder the formation of Seraiki province. Seraiki province was the demand of 40 million people and resolutions for the formation of new province have been passed both in National Assembly and Punjab Assembly. He said that government was adamant to create new province. The prime minister said that to overcome the energy crisis and to control loadshedding, government is utilizing all the facilities at hand and trying to control the long hours power breakdown, adding that government has initiated various steps in this regard to pull the country out of crisis. Gilani said that there is no restriction on provinces to produce electricity. He said that government servants who were expelled by Nawaz Sharif were re-appointed by the incumbent governments and steps were take to regularize all those who fell victim to Nawaz government’s biased policies, adding that government was taking steps to regularize the remaining government servants serving on contract. Answering question regarding the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner, the premier said he had sought recommendations from Leader of the Opposition but he denied saying he didn’t accept him the prime minister. Gilani said that parliamentarians have accepted the committee constituted by him and they will also accepts him as PM of the country. Gilani said that parliamentary committee headed by Syed Khurshid Shah would now oversee the issue of appointment of Chief Election Commissioner. Gilani further said that the opposition did not accept him as the prime minister but were willing to sit in committees formed by him. He said that talks with the US over the restoration of Nato supplies were underway, adding that President Zardari has been invited to the Chicago summit unconditionally which president will attend. To a question whether the army would launch operation in North Waziristan, Gilani said that army could take measures against foreign militants on its own.

Obama Talks Gay Marriage, Politics and Pop Culture on 'The View'

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Obama Campaign Announces Raising $43.6 Million in April

President Obama and the Democrats raised $43.6 million in April, adding to the president’s edge over his rival, Mitt Romney, even as money continues to pour in to outside groups ahead of the fall campaign. Campaign Cash News and analysis on campaign fund-raising. The $43.6 million is a dip from March, when Mr. Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised a combined $53 million. But it does not count several large fund-raisers — including one in Hollywood that reportedly raised $15 million — that took place in early May. Mr. Obama’s campaign is also hoping to capitalize in the months ahead on increased fund-raising in the gay community after Mr. Obama’s statement this month that he supports same-sex marriage. In a video released Wednesday morning, Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager, focused on the need to compete with the outside groups like Crossroads GPS and Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” formed to help Mr. Romney. “Oil company executives and other special interests are dumping millions of dollars in super PAC attack ads,” Mr. Messina said. “The Koch brothers-funded super PAC spent $6 million on TV ads attacking the president. Mitt Romney’s super PAC put another $4 million on the air.” The campaign is eager to light a fire under its supporters to donate money to combat those ads. But it’s also trying to show potential donors how contributions are being used to build an effective organization on the ground. In the video, Mr. Messina described how the campaign has opened dozens of field offices in swing states like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia in the hopes of overwhelming Mr. Romney with a superior organization. Still, the campaign knows that the ability to compete with Mr. Romney and the outside groups with television advertising will be a key to winning the election. And that takes money. Just this month, Mr. Obama’s campaign announced a $25 million advertising buy in the battleground states in a largely positive effort to promote the president’s accomplishments in office. And on Wednesday, the campaign is paying for a two-minute attack ad about Mr. Romney’s time at Bain Capital. So far, Mr. Obama has easily outpaced Mr. Romney’s fund-raising. By mid-March, Mr. Obama’s campaign had amassed nearly 10 times the amount of cash on hand that Mr. Romney had collected. But that was just as Mr. Romney was wrapping up the nomination. The Republican candidate has plans to raise as much as $800 million to spend on the general election, and has increased his fund-raising since becoming the presumptive nominee.

U.S. Census: Minorities now surpass whites in US births

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing. New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation's racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.
"This is an important landmark," said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. "This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders." The report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of Arizona's strict immigration law, with many states weighing similar get-tough measures. "We remain in a dangerous period where those appealing to anti-immigration elements are fueling a divisiveness and hostility that might take decades to overcome," Harrison said. As a whole, the nation's minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years. But a recent slowdown in the growth of the Hispanic and Asian populations is shifting notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come — the time when non-Hispanic whites become a minority. After 2010 census results suggested a crossover as early as 2040, demographers now believe the pivotal moment may be pushed back several years when new projections are released in December. The annual growth rates for Hispanics and Asians fell sharply last year to just over 2 percent, roughly half the rates in 2000 and the lowest in more than a decade. The black growth rate stayed flat at 1 percent. The immigrants staying put in the U.S. for now include Narcisa Marcelino, 34, a single mother who lives with her two daughters, ages 10 and 5, in Martinsburg, W.Va. After crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in 2000, she followed her brother to the eastern part of the state just outside the Baltimore-Washington region. The Martinsburg area is known for hiring hundreds of migrants annually to work in fruit orchards. Its Hispanic growth climbed from 14 percent to 18 percent between 2000 and 2005 before shrinking last year to 3.3 percent, still above the national average. Marcelino says she sells food from her home to make ends meet for her family and continues to hope that one day she will get a hearing with immigration officials to stay legally in the U.S. She aspires to open a restaurant and is learning English at a community college so she can help other Spanish-language speakers. If she is eventually deported, "it wouldn't be that tragic," Marcelino said. "But because the children have been born here, this is their country. And there are more opportunities for them here." Of the 30 large metropolitan areas showing the fastest Hispanic growth in the previous decade, all showed slower growth in 2011 than in the peak Hispanic growth years of 2005-2006, when the construction boom attracted new migrants to low-wage work. They include Lakeland, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; Provo, Utah; Las Vegas; and Phoenix. All but two — Fort Myers, Fla., and Dallas-Fort Worth — also grew more slowly last year than in 2010, hurt by the jobs slump. Pointing to a longer-term decline in immigration, demographers believe the Hispanic population boom may have peaked. "The Latino population is very young, which means they will continue to have a lot of births relative to the general population," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau. "But we're seeing a slowdown that is likely the result of multiple factors: declining Latina birth rates combined with lower immigration levels. If both of these trends continue, they will lead to big changes down the road." William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the census data, noted that government debates over immigration enforcement may now be less pressing, given slowing growth. "The current congressional and Supreme Court interest in reducing immigration — and the concerns especially about low-skilled and undocumented Hispanic immigration — represent issues that could well be behind us," he said. Minorities made up roughly 2.02 million, or 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. That compares with 37 percent in 1990. In all, 348 of the nation's 3,143 counties, or 1 in 9, have minority populations across all age groups that total more than 50 percent. In a sign of future U.S. race and ethnic change, the number of counties reaching the tipping point increases to more than 690, or nearly 1 in 4, when looking only at the under age 5 population. The counties in transition include Maricopa (Phoenix), Ariz.; King (Seattle), Wash.; Travis (Austin), Texas; and Palm Beach, Fla., where recent Hispanic births are driving the increased diversity among children. Also high on the list are suburban counties such as Fairfax, Va., just outside the nation's capital, and Westchester, N.Y., near New York City, where more open spaces are a draw for young families who are increasingly minority. According to the latest data, the percentage growth of Hispanics slowed from 4.2 percent in 2001 to 2.5 percent last year. Their population growth would have been even lower if it weren't for their relatively high fertility rates — seven births for every death. The median age of U.S. Hispanics is 27.6 years. Births actually have been declining for both whites and minorities as many women postponed having children during the economic slump. But the drop since 2008 has been larger for whites, who have a median age of 42. The number of white births fell by 11.4 percent, compared with 3.2 percent for minorities, according to Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire. Asian population increases also slowed, from 4.5 percent in 2001 to about 2.2 percent. Hispanics and Asians still are the two fastest-growing minority groups, making up about 16.7 percent and 4.8 percent of the U.S. population, respectively. Blacks, who comprise about 12.3 percent of the population, have increased at a rate of about 1 percent each year. Whites have increased very little in recent years. Other findings: —The migration of black Americans back to the South is slowing. New destinations in the South, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Orlando, Fla., saw sharp drop-offs in black population growth as the prolonged housing bust kept African-Americans locked in place in traditional big cities. Metro areas including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco had reduced declines or gains. —Nine U.S. counties in five states saw their minority populations across all age groups surpass 50 percent last year. They were Sutter and Yolo in California; Quitman in Georgia; Cumberland in New Jersey; Colfax in New Mexico; and Lynn, Mitchell, Schleicher and Swisher in Texas. —Maverick County, Texas, had the largest share of minorities at 96.8 percent, followed by Webb County, Texas, and Wade Hampton, Alaska, both at 96 percent. —Four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — as well as the District of Columbia have minority populations that exceed 50 percent. The census estimates used local records of births and deaths, tax records of people moving within the U.S., and census statistics on immigrants. The figures for "white" refer to those whites who are not of Hispanic ethnicity. ___

NATO's rush for exit risks Afghan collapse

NATO's rush to get out of a "quagmire" in Afghanistan risks the collapse of the state and strategic failure for the Western alliance in its decade-long war, a former EU adviser has warned. "The intervention veered from 'too little too late' in its crucial early years, to one of 'too much too late'," says Barbara Stapleton, who was deputy to the EU special representative for Afghanistan, in a report. The report for the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network, entitled "Beating a Retreat", comes ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago that will hammer out details of the withdrawal of some 130,000 troops by the end of 2014. Stapleton criticises the inflexibility of the deadline, saying the transition of security to Afghan control "cannot be divorced from actual conditions on the ground with respect to security, governance and development". "The idea that the official transition timeline can generate even minimally conducive conditions on the Afghan ground -- that would substantiate claims that the transition strategy can succeed -- is a delusion," she writes. Implementation of the transition without these conditions being taken into account, "increases the risk of the Afghan state's collapse and with it, the prospect of strategic failure for NATO". After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the United States led an invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- and has been fighting an insurgency by the hardline Islamists ever since. With the long war increasingly unpopular in the West, NATO set 2014 as the deadline for pulling its combat troops out, while training some 350,000 Afghan security forces to take over the fight. "In the rush to get out of the quagmire that Afghanistan has become, the US and other NATO member states may be preparing the ground for more instability there, rather than less," Stapleton says. The Afghan government will take to the NATO summit on Sunday a firm demand for $4.1 billion a year for its security forces after Western troops pull out -- insisting that it is an investment for the West's own security. "This is not charity, Afghanistan is and will be on the frontline of the world's fight against terrorism," Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told foreign journalists ahead of the summit.

President Zardari to attend NATO summit on Sunday

Foreign Office Spokesman in Islamabad on Thursday said the
President Zardari will address the Expanded ISAF Meeting of NATO and also meet various leaders on the occasion. He will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The spokesperson said decision to attend the summit was made after both the DCC and the Cabinet had endorsed the invitation. To a question the Spokesman said Pakistan will continues to remain engaged with the United States on all issues and decisions in this regard would be taken in the best interest of the nation. Responding to some speculative media reports be clarified that the government will abide by recommendations of the Parliament, the official said as decided by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet negotiations on NATO supply‚ question of apology‚ fresh border ground rules and cessation of drone attacks are being carried out in a transparent manner.

Malik urges Sharifs to stop using state’s machinery for rallies

DAWN.COM Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik on Wednesday said protests led by Sharif brothers are an eye opener for public as to what level they (Sharifs) can go for their personal enmity where they even do not mind using the state machinery for their protest rallies. He said law and order situation is not satisfactory, corruption and mismanagement can be seen in Punjab province as wrong and vague policies of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have made people to suffer. The minister was responding to a question raised in a press conference regarding statements being issued by the PML-N leadership against the government. “I advise both the Sharif brothers to avoid telling lies and bring change in their attitudes. They should realise that people support Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is trying to bring positive change in their lives,” he said. Malik said he has evidence against Sharifs of their involvement in corruption and added he would gradually reveal their other frauds before the masses. Replying to a question, the minister said he would approach the courts regarding their (Sharifs) corruption but first he will fight against them in the “court of masses.” He said the amount embezzled and wasted in Sasti Roti Scheme and corruption in free laptops distribution is so massive that with the same amount half of the Punjab would have been self-sufficient in electric supply, he added. “If Sharifs bring only 50 per cent of their wealth from abroad laundered through various banks and stolen by Pakistani banks can make Pakistan self-sufficient in the energy supply,” he said and asked Nawaz and Shahbaz to bring back the stolen money and invest in the country instead of “talking.”

HRW urges Zardari not to sign Human Rights Commission bill

The Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the President of Pakistan not to sign a bill to authorize a newly formed national human rights commission until it is revised to “authorize investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations.” “The National Human Rights Commission if given teeth can play a critical role in improving Pakistan’s dire human rights situation. President Zardari should tell parliament he will only sign the bill when it gives the commission authority over abuses by the military and intelligence agencies,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the international human rights’ watchdog, in a press release issued today. Pakistan’s National Assembly had passed a bill – the National Human Rights Commission Act – on May 4 for the commission’s formation, but the act requires the president’s approval before it goes into effect. The Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that the bill would prevent the commission from addressing or investigating “human rights violations by members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies.” “Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” said Adams. “A primary reason to create a national human rights commission should be to address longstanding impunity for the army and intelligence services.” The HRW has repeatedly called for more accountability of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, which it says, manages the country’s security policy. Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was mysteriously killed in May last year, had told the HRW that he had been getting threats from intelligence agents. The government had formed a commission to investigate the death, but it was unable to specifically hold anyone responsible for the killing. The HRW had blamed the commission of being “fearful of confronting the ISI over Shahzad’s death.” “The commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system,” Adams had said earlier in January. Thursday’s press release adds that the bill creating the National Human Rights Commission contains many positive elements to promote and protect human rights in Pakistan. “A strong and independent National Human Rights Commission can be a key institution in aiding Pakistan’s transition to a truly rights-respecting democracy.” But a commission that cannot take on cases involving the army and intelligence agencies would perpetuate a cruel joke on Pakistanis whose rights have been violated.”

Islami Jamiat-e-Talba terrorists attacks, damages PU VC’s office

The historic Punjab University converted into a battlefield on Wednesday, when more than a hundred Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT) activists attacked and damaged the PU Vice-Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran’s office, terming him responsible for the murder of IJT activist Awais Aqeel, Pakistan Today has learnt. The PU had opened on its first working day on Wednesday after the murder of the student. It is pertinent to mention here that Aqeel was murdered by former IJT activist Abrar Watto while at the PU hostel canteen. After the incident, the varsity’s departments were closed after the IJT called for complete closure of academic activities. During the demonstration, the IJT activists, who had gathered on the express invitation of the organisation, shouted slogans against the PU VC and warned the PU administration of dire consequences for the loss of their activist. PU IJT Nazim Rai Haq Nawaz said the organisation had proof attesting to the involvement of the administration in the murder as the administration had supported Watto. He added that Abrar had been involved in criminal activities, but the administration did not take any action against him. The IJT activists claimed that the varsity’s top officials, especially the VC and PUCIT Principal Mansoor Sarwer were involved in Aqeel’s murder. According to the official PU spokesman, two professors were also attacked by the activists, while most faculty members and employees shut down their offices after the incident. The PU is no stranger to clashes between the university’s administration and the IJT, as just last week PUCIT Principal Sarwer vacated hostel rooms from the illegal IJT occupants, inviting another clash during which two IJT activists were injured. An FIR was also registered against the PUCIT principal by the IJT. According to IJT activist Nawaz, Aqeel had been warned of dire consequences by principal Sarwer before his murder. The activist said the organisation was investigating the incident and would not spare those involved in the crime. He said also criticised the administration’s ‘double standards’, saying that many trouble-makers had been expelled from the varsity in the past, with the exception of Watto. Nawaz denied allegations that the IJT had attacked teachers and said it was a part of the administration’s propaganda. However, according to the PU spokesman, the murder was a result of internal clashes in the IJT, adding that the administration was not linked to the incident. He said the administration and PU Academic Staff Association was protesting over the disruptive activities of the IJT and were demanding security measures from the Punjab government. The PU spokesman added that Aqeel and Watto were not PU students and that the administration had launched an operation to vacate the PU hostels from illegal occupants such as these. According to PU spokesman, the organisation had supported Watto during his attacks on the houses of syndicate member Prof Dr Shaukat Ali and Examinations Controller Prof Dr Liaqat Ali. He said the IJT activists were involved in negative politics that had claimed a precious life. PUASA condemned attack on VC Office: Meanwhile, a meeting of PUASA was held on Wednesday at executive club of the varsity where PUASA representatives condemned the attack on the VC office while other PU faculty members also opposed the incident.