Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New York's subways swamped after Sandy

Gov. Christie Mourns Loss of Life and Shore Icons

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

Aerial view of New Jersey destruction

Obama To Visit Storm-Ravaged New Jersey as Death Toll Mounts

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

President Obama Signs New Jersey Disaster Declaration

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

Republican New Jersey Governor Christie praises Obama

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

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

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

After Sandy, Bill Clinton rails against Romney on global warming

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

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

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

Video: Huge waves blast New Jersey homes

Did Mitt Romney suggest eliminating FEMA?

In a GOP debate last year, Mitt Romney promoted the idea of sending emergency management back to the states, or better yet, the private sector. Now his campaign says he would not abolish FEMA.
The day after hurricane Sandy hit the eastern United States, to devastating effect, a political debate is raging over whether Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney suggested last year the elimination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. The Romney campaign maintains he did nothing of the kind in the Republican primary debate held on June 13, 2011. Democrats – and the editorial page of The New York Times – insist he did. Let’s look at the transcript. IN PICTURES: October surprises – last-minute election game-changers The topic under discussion was the role of the federal government, and which functions Washington keeps. Moderator John King turned to Mr. Romney and asked him about disaster relief, following the tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., the month before. “FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role,” Mr. King said. “How do you deal with something like that?” Romney’s response: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. “Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut – we should ask ourselves the opposite question,” Romney continued. “What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in. We cannot ...” King interjected: “Including disaster relief, though?” Romney replied: “We cannot – we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all.” Fast-forward to now. Contacted by the media, the Romney campaign asserts that Romney would not abolish FEMA, but still prefers that states take the lead in disaster response. “Governor Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” It’s not clear how, under a President Romney, the relationship between FEMA and state governments would change. But in liberal circles, Romney’s statement from last year is all the evidence needed that he would trim government spending and functions to harmful effect. On Monday, before Sandy engulfed much of the eastern US late in the day, the editorial page of The New York Times slammed Romney’s 2011 statement in “A big storm requires big government.” “Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency?” the editorial asked. “Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages.” So far the Obama campaign has not taken up this line of attack. That might be risky. At a time of tragedy, Americans have little tolerance for politics.

Hurricane Sandy: Atlantic City mayor: Christie was ‘dead wrong’

The mayor of Atlantic City said Tuesday morning that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was “dead wrong” for suggesting that city residents were not encouraged to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Lorenzo Langford said on the “Today” show that during a “major catastrophe” the governor chose to “play politics” when he singled him out during a Monday evening press briefing. Christie called Langford a “rogue mayor”) and said residents were given a mixed message on whether to evacuate when shelters in the city were opened.“I’m telling you that is absolutely false and the governor needs to be challenged,” Langford said when asked about Christie’s comments. “Where did he get that information? He’s dead wrong.” Langford said most residents heeded his warnings to flee, although some decided to stay. “There will always be those who will not heed that warning and decide to stay,” Langford said. “We had that contingency plan in place.” Langford said the “glass is half full” in his city after the storm and that damage could have been much worse. Also appearing on “Today” on Tuesday, Christie said his anger has turned to sympathy as he focuses on the massive cleanup and rescue efforts afoot in the hard-hit state. “We’re just going to try to save the folks. I feel badly for them that they got mixed messages,” Christie said of Langford. “I had signed an executive order declaring an emergency and ordering the evacuation of Atlantic City, and for some reason the mayor gave a mixed message. But my focus right now is on the people of Atlantic City, and we need to get them out and keep them safe.” The two have quarreled before. Christie said earlier in October that Langford has “failed” and is “impossible to work with.” And though Christie said his focus has shifted from chastising the mayor, all does not yet seem forgiven. “I would love nothing better than that to confront the governor mano y mano,” Langford said Tuesday morning after a “Today” host suggested the two go on air at the same time.

India's New FM to Focus on Pakistan, China Relations

India’s new foreign minister says he will strengthen relations with Pakistan and China. Salman Khurshid is expected to bring new energy to the government's efforts to improve ties with regional neighbors. Forging relations In one of his first comments after taking over as foreign minister, Khurshid said he hopes to work more closely with Pakistan. Khurshid, 59, is much younger than his 80-year-old predecessor and is widely described as one of India’s most sophisticated and articulate politicians. Khurshid comes from an illustrious Muslim family. And he is not a newcomer to the foreign ministry -- he was junior foreign minister in the 1990s. The head of New Delhi’s Center for Media Studies, Bhaskar Rao, says the new minister will give momentum to India’s efforts to resolve differences with its Muslim neighbor. “First and foremost the name itself rings a bell with people on the other side of the border. On any of these contentious issues, he is not known for taking [a] hard stand. He is a good negotiator. He would be able to establish a wavelength,” said Rao. Peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors - put on hold after the 2008 Mumbai attacks -- restarted last year. But Islamabad’s failure to prosecute the Pakistani militants who allegedly plotted those attacks has stifled progress. Common ground Nevertheless, Khurshid is optimistic and suggests India has more common ground with Pakistan than ever before. He says issues New Delhi has highlighted in the past have emerged as a concern for Pakistan. C. Rajamohan, a strategic affairs analyst at the Observer Research Foundation, says Khurshid is referring to India’s long-held concerns about terrorism and militant groups based in Pakistan. “India’s terrorism comes from across Pakistan and [in] Pakistan, much of the threat is coming from within. I think the idea is that look as Pakistan’s civilian leaders and probably even its military recognize that terrorism is a threat to themselves it is possible to work together and try and find a way of working together to combat terrorism and then in the process also look at resolving outstanding disputes like Kashmir and other issues,” Rajamohan stated. Closer ties with China Khurshid is also optimistic about India’s ties with China. He says the potential for growth is huge and that the passage of time and emergence of a new economic order in the world has brought China and India far closer together. As he vows to take India’s foreign policy ahead, the new foreign minister recommends so-call out-of-the-box thinking. Analysts say Khurshid will likely display more diplomatic skill than his predecessor, whose reputation was battered by several public gaffes. S.M. Krishna once began reading from the Portuguese foreign minister's speech at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York. Another embarrassment came when he was accused by his Pakistani counterpart at a press conference in 2010 of having to take his orders by phone from New Delhi.

Germany's FES honors Pakistan's tribal journalists

Germany's non-governmental organization FES has decided to bestow its human rights award on Pakistan's Tribal Union of Journalists for consolidating media freedom in one of the world's most dangerous regions. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), an independent political foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany, honors individuals and organizations annually for their outstanding services for human rights in different parts of the world. The FES announced that this year it would pay tribute to a Pakistani journalists' union - the Tribal Union of Journalists - which has been working for 20 years in the semi-governed tribal areas in the Pakistan's northwest.Pakistan's northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan is known to be the hub of Taliban militants and al Qaeda operatives. The United States blames these militants for launching attacks on international troops in Afghanistan. The Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) is a representative body of over 250 journalists working for national and international media. "The TUJ exemplifies the courage of local journalists who, at the risk of their lives, provide the outside world with crucial background from the 'black box' of the Afghan-Pakistani border region," Konstantin Bärwaldt of FES told DW. The award ceremony takes place in Berlin on October 31st. Recognition Safdar Dawar, TUJ's president, told DW he was thankful the TUJ had been chosen for the prestigious award. "The international community has realized how dangerous it is to work in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas with almost no support from the government." Dawar added that a number of his fellow journalists had been killed by militants in the line of duty.Dawar lamented that the Pakistani government was not doing much to recognize the efforts of the tribal journalists. "On the one hand, international organizations like the FES are acknowledging our role in reporting from one of the most dangerous areas of the world, on the other hand, the Pakistani government is totally indifferent to our issues." He said that their demands for better facilities and life insurance had been falling on deaf ears. He also explained that the Pakistani laws did not allow independent media in the FATA, which made it more difficult for the tribal journalists to report. He demanded that the government change its laws and allow independent media to function in the tribal areas, which according to him, would facilitate democracy in the region. "I hope that international awards will make things better for journalists and the media freedom in the FATA." Perilous job Faridullah Khan, a DW correspondent in Peshawar, said that the FES award was a big milestone for journalists whose efforts went largely unacknowledged. "These journalists are paid less, their security is not ensured, yet they bring out the information from the most perilous areas and share it with the world." A 2012 UNESCO report ranks Pakistan "the second most dangerous country for journalists after Mexico. According to the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), 17 journalists were killed in South Asia in 2011, 12 of them in Pakistan.Terrorism and Islamism are the most dangerous issues for Pakistani journalists to report on, SAFMA said. Imtiaz Alam, SAFMA secretary general, blamed both state and non-state elements for the situation. "So many journalists in Pakistan have been killed. Yet nobody has ever been brought to justice for their murders." Nasir Tufail of Geo TV told DW that the local and foreign media relied on only a few journalists for information about the restive northwestern tribal areas. "Most journalists can't even enter these areas," he said. "Therefore, it's not easy to get reliable news about the Taliban and the 'war on terror.'"

Pakistan supports application of human rights: Khar

The Express Tribune
Hina Rabbani Khar
in a statement at the 14th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council in Geneva stated that Pakistan staunchly supported the promotion and application of human rights universally. In the second round of UPR, Khar presented Pakistan’s national report on promotion and protection to the Human Rights Council. Khar mentioned that Pakistan was committed to combating terrorist. However, she termed drone attacks to be counterproductive and against the sovereignty of the country. Pakistan’s foreign minister understated the government’s effort in improving the human rights conditions in Pakistan, adding that establishing National Commission on Human Rights and passing bills for women and children rights was a remarkable move made by the government. According to a press release, a few countries including India, UK, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa have already presented their Human Rights reports. Other countries including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Japan and Switzerland presented their reports to the Human Rights Council during the current session. The delegation sent to Geneva included Advisor to Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Advisor to Prime Minster on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti, Chairman, National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights Riaz Fatyana, and Member of the National Assembly Dr Araish Kumar. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Watch had issued a report terming the past year ‘disastrous’ for the country. The report stated that the there were increasing militant attacks on civilians and inflation was on the rise. Minorities on the other hand faced security issues. It also mentioned the problems the country faced after experiencing floods for the second year in a row.

The Durand Line

The bleak prospect lent to the Pak-US relationship by the contenders to the next White House tends to lift a bit in the wake of Washington's take on the Durand Line. The US State Department too has upheld Special Envoy Marc Grossman's recent assertion that the Durand Line is an internationally recognised boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rejecting Kabul's protest over Grossman's comment, the State Department spokesperson said last Wednesday the US policy on the Durand Line 'has not changed' and 'it was correctly stated by Ambassador Grossman'. Since the envoy said so in Kabul, on arrival from Islamabad the host government's reaction, quite expectedly, was vociferous. A statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry said "Kabul rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about legal status of this line". And the issue came up in the Afghan parliament and media also. But the American position was unchanged in that even the newly accredited US Ambassador James Cunningham too fully owned up to his government's take on the status of the boundary line. But soon enough Kabul relented on its first reaction and is said to have 'later played down as a reiteration of an existing position rather than an approach'. The position on the Durand Line taken by the US government is quite close to Pakistan's. Given the lingering nature of controversy over its legal status, a historical perspective is in order. As the British rule in this region came to a close in 1947 the Kabul government came up questioning the validity of the Durand Line with Pakistan. The then Afghan government, in the words of Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, a former prime minister of Pakistan, "aided and abetted by India" and encouraged by the Red Shirts (Khudai Khidmatgar party of Bacha Khan), showed hostility. On September 30, 1947 when Pakistan was admitted to the United Nations the Afghan representative cast the solitary negative vote. The Kabul position was a negation of the Durand boundary agreement of 1893 which was negotiated on the initiative of Amir Abdur Rahman of Afghanistan. He had expressed full satisfaction with the agreement and reiterated its acceptance in 1905. In subsequent treaties of 1919 and 1921 the government of Amir Amanullah Khan reconfirmed the legitimacy of the Durand Line. As for the overlap of ethnicity, culture and language the Durand Line has it in common with most of the international borders. Now that the "Pakhtunistan" stunt is dead and buried deep - the death blow delivered to it by none other than the Pashtun on both sides of the border who find no problem criss-crossing it in thousands every day - there is no reason with Kabul to fret and fume over Grossman's statement. Unless Kabul intends justifying cross-border forays by Swati Taliban now enjoying Afghan hospitality into the Pakistan territory. But that would be a bad bargain; for peace to return to the region it is necessary that Kabul should respect the common border with Pakistan and its other neighbours. In fact, the Afghan government would be raising heckles about the Grossman comment at the cost of keeping the common border insecure and problematic to cross over - a condition all the more critical for a landlocked country. The historical fact is even when Kabul opposed UN membership for Pakistan and never stopped patronising the Pakhtunistan stunt Pakistan took it in stride and maintained brotherly relations with it. It's our hope that as it emerges from the long spell of chaos and anarchy, Afghanistan is stable, confident and at peace with itself and its neighbours. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, a relatively democratic Baghdad too is at peace with its neighbours.

President Zardari stresses need for total elimination of polio

President Asif Ali Zardari has reiterated Government's commitment to undertake all efforts for complete eradication of polio virus from the country. Addressing a specially convened meeting in Karachi to review the current situation vis-à-vis Polio eradication efforts in Sindh‚ he advised the concerned authorities to follow innovative strategies in reaching out to those populace and places that were still serving as reservoir of the virus and have so far remained under-served due to various reasons. The President emphasized that we can secure future of our generations by ensuring proper vaccination.

U.K. Hospital resists requests to meet Malala

The Birmingham hospital treating Malala has defied political pressure from Pakistani and UK politicians who have inundated the hospital with requests for allowing them to meet Malala and pose with her for publicity images.
A source at the hospital confided to The News that dozens of requests have been received by the hospital from powerful politicians from Pakistan as well as some from the UK for media-ops but the hospital has turned down all such requests so far and have refused to treat requests from some of the most senior government figures. The first video of Malala with her family was released on Monday in which the young girl is seen talking to her parents. The News is aware that “official meeting requests” from Pakistani and British government have been made, including a plea made by Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousufzai for an official meeting, but the hospital doctors are taking no chance and not buckling under the pressure. A source at the hospital said: “We have never received so much interest for any patient. Requests for meeting have been flooding in from government figures, politicians, NGOs and media but we have the welfare of Malala on our minds. We will not expose her under any circumstances and we are glad she is recovering well.” The News has learnt that the hospital is only allowing two hours to Malala’s family members to visit her, an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening but they are under strict health and safety guidelines while inside the ward Malala is making recovery, on way to the reconstruction surgery. Some of the leading figures who have so far visited the hospital in Birmingham are Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, who spent Eid with Malala’s family in Birmingham on October 26th, Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Dr Farooq Sattar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Awamy National Party (ANP) Swat lawmaker Dr Haider Ali, and Pakistani’s High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, Emirati Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, and Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited the hospital on Monday and met Dr David Rosser, the hospital’s Medical Director, and Ziauddin Yousufzai. They chatted with staff caring for Malala and were briefed by Dr Dave Rosser. In a statement issued after the visit, the foreign secretary praised her courage. Hague said: “Malala’s swift and full recovery is our absolute priority but we are also determined to do all we can to champion education for women and girls in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan have paid a high price from terrorism and extremism. We will stand by all those who, like Malala, are courageously defending the rights of women, in Pakistan and around the world.” Rehman Malik said he had visited the hospital to covey best wishes on behalf of the government and the whole Pakistani nation. Malik said: “Malala’s incident should not be seen in isolation. She is a symbol of courage and determination against the forces of extremist ideology. The attack on her was also meant to tarnish the true face of Pakistan and to discourage those struggling for human liberties and for the democratisation of our society. Besides, she is a strong exponent of education, especially for girls. Let me reassure our international friends that such acts of cowardice will not deter us, and the whole Pakistani nation stands behind Malala and her cause. We will do whatever possible to counter obscurantist forces and to take Pakistan on the path of peace and moderation, as envisioned by our founding fathers.” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed said the people of the UAE were appalled by what happened to Malala. “Malala’s courage inspires us to reinforce our commitment to rejecting ideologies rooted in intolerance and extremism. By helping Malala, whose courage we applaud, the UAE is also voicing its firm belief in the right of girls to education everywhere.” APP adds: Malala Yousafzai’s father on Saturday thanked President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani for the support provided to his daughter after the tragic Swat incident. In an interview with journalists, after meeting his daughter at a Birmingham hospital, Ziauddin Yousufzai said he was happy to see his daughter and her improving health condition.He also thanked all those people who were concerned about Malala’s health and the support provided to her for promoting peace and education in Swat. INP adds: Meanwhile, Rehman Malik said the authorities were searching for the main suspect Attaullah and others involved in the attack on Malala Yousafzai. The interior minister while talking to a US news channel said Malala’s attackers were identified within 24 hours. Malik added that Malala and her parents could stay in the UK as long as need be and she would be provided foolproof security upon her return to Pakistan.

Malala status updates Tuesday 30 October 2012

Malala Yousufzai continues to make steady progress at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where she is in a stable condition. Yesterday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, Pakistan Minister Rehman Malik and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, met members of the medical team caring for the 15-year-old, and her father Ziauddin. Afterwards, the ministerial delegation held a short press conference during which Mr Hague said Malala's "swift and full recovery is our absolute priority" and thanked the doctors at the hospital. Only the medical team caring for Malala and her immediate family have been given access to her bedside.

Possible levee break in New Jersey floods three towns

A possible levee breach in northern New Jersey on Tuesday, flooded three towns with 4 to 5 feet of water in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, prompting the evacuation of hundreds from their homes. The towns of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt were underwater after the swollen Hackensack River broke its banks, affecting around 2,000 residents, said Jeanne Baratta, chief of the Bergen County Executive. Baratta, who was on the scene with emergency personnel, said there was the possibility that the river overflowed its banks rather than broke a levee while a New Jersey State Police spokesman described it as a levee break in the borough of Moonachie. There were no immediate reports of any fatalities and rescue workers took approximately 200 residents out of the danger zone while some others left on their accord. "They are wet and they are cold and they have lost their homes and their property. It is very sad," Baratta said. "We are in rescue mode," she said, adding that the three towns had been "devastated" by the flood waters. Baratta described a scene of rescue teams using boats and trucks to move residents to safety at a nearby school in Teterboro, which also is home to a regional airport heavily used by corporate jets and smaller aircraft. The break came hours after Sandy, which dropped below hurricane status just before it hit the U.S. East Coast on Monday.

Hurricane Sandy leaves N.J., but destruction, questions remain

Hurricane Sandy lumbered west through the night, leaving a dark and devastated state. More than half of New Jersey awakes this morning without power. Flood waters have broken through coast lines and raced through city streets. Thousands are in shelters. Police are reporting at least three people in New Jersey have died because of the storm. With many highways closed and streets flooded, people receded into their homes Monday night in a kind of lockdown. There was nothing to do but wait — for how long, no one yet knows. Some of the strongest winds happened after dark, so daybreak will offer the first chance to inspect the extent of the damage. “It’s bad,” State Police Sgt. Adam Grossman said. “It’s a massive storm. But we will get a better idea of how bad it is once day breaks.” First light, though, also holds the possibility of fresh danger.High tide will be between 7 and 8 a.m., which could cause minor to moderate flooding along an already battered coast, said Patrick O’Hara, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Areas farther inland are expected to be spared the kind of flooding they saw during Tropical Storm Irene last summer. Though tidal flooding could cause more havoc, it appears as if the worst is behind us. Gusts on Monday reached 80 miles per hour. Forecasts for Tuesday call for wind gusts between 20 and 30 miles per hour, O’Hara said. Rain and wind will continue to lighten through the day. Sandy, as of 5 a.m., was about 90 miles west of Philadelphia and beginning to weaken. But its effects will be felt for weeks. Power companies are warning residents not to expect service to return for days. With electricity gone and cell phone service spotty, many across the state took to social media trying to tell loved ones that they were okay. The Star-Ledger lost power around 8:30 p.m. leaving the newspaper unable to print, but updates to NJ.com continued through the night, with reporters working by flashlight and mobile phone, dictating stories to sister papers across the country. Here is what we know: In the hours after Sandy passed, it is clear no corner of the state was spared.Fires sprang up in Ocean County, dozens of rooftop rescues took place in Sayreville, and ambulances were trapped in their bays at Jersey City Medical Center because floodwaters outside the hospital were several feet high. Moonachie, in Bergen County, was submerged. It appears as if a levee was compromised, allowing waters from the Hackensack River to flood the town. “It happened extremely quickly,” said Jeanne Baratta, a spokeswoman for the county. Emergency responders were slowed because of flooding on the New Jersey Turnpike. Union Beach, in Monmouth County, suffered a similar fate. “The entire town is under water,” said Police Chief Scott Woolley, whose officers spent the night rescuing those who ignored a mandatory evacuation order. In Mendham Township, police said a man and woman were killed, and two children injured, when a tree fell on their pickup truck. A Hawthorne man was killed when a tree fell on the roof of his home, township police said. The three who died have not yet been identified. Power was out in most of Newark on Monday night. One house on Newark’s North 6th Street had its roof blown off and was in danger of collapsing, said Sherriff Armando Fontura. Residents were able to flee the home safely, he said. There was also flooding from the Passaic River. The county jail was surrounded by water and backup generators were close to being flooded, Fontura said. County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who tried to reach the jail, had to be rescued when his car got stuck in the rising waters. As the sun rises, crews will begin to assess where else there is damage and danger and only then will the state have a full idea of the mess Sandy has left behind.

Monster Storm Sandy :Over a dozen dead, over 6 million without power

The Associated Press/CNN
Monster Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast Monday, killing at least 16 people, hurling a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City and knocking out power to an estimated 6.2 million people. The massive storm was downgraded from a hurricane after it barged ashore in southern New Jersey, bringing more than 85-mph winds and a roiling wall of seawater as it moved through New York City. It sent water surging into two major commuter tunnels and into subway stations and tracks. It was unclear how much water had come in. The 16 deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees. At least one death was blamed on the storm in Canada. The power was out for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and an estimated 6.2 million people altogether across the East, with the full extent of the storm's damage across the region unclear and unlikely to be known until daybreak. The MTA cut power to some subway tunnels in lower Manhattan, after water came into the stations and tracks. The MTA couldn't say at this point how much damage had been done, and how much time it would take to restore everything to normal. Consolidated Edison was prompted to cut power to part of the area to avoid storm damage. A large portion of Manhattan's FDR Drive was under water. Reuters reported late Monday that there had been an explosion at a Consolidated Edison power station on the east side of Manhattan. Despite earlier reports, ConEd said on Twitter no one was trapped inside the plant. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says backup power has been lost at New York University hospital and the city is working to move people out. The mayor delivered a news conference Monday night and said rain was tapering off in the city and the storm surge was expected to recede by midnight. The hospital complex is near the East River in an area of lower Manhattan where flooding has been reported. The hurricane-turned-post-tropical cyclone, still a powerful, 900-mile-wide hybrid of several weather systems, sent 30-foot-high swells toward New Jersey, and as its eye passed over the shoreline, a surge as high as 10 feet tore into dunes and washed across boardwalks. The state had evacuated all shore towns ahead of the strike, with Gov. Chris Christie telling residents who ignored the evacuation orders they were "both stupid and selfish." "[It's a] very intense, very dangerous storm. People will die in this storm," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Monday. "So folks will need to mind their families, stay home and hunker down." Even homes on stilts were threatened by the massive surge, and water was cresting dunes and boardwalks from Delaware's Rehoboth Beach to Jones Beach in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down all major New York bridges and schools, airports and the New York Stock Exchange were closed for Tuesday. North of Atlantic City, the storm was expected to be at maximum force from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., with gusts up to 90 mph, especially on ocean-facing beaches. For Long Island, Connecticut, and the rest of coastal New England, the high impact winds could last until midnight, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Weather Journal. The National Guard was deployed along the densely-populated Atlantic Coast, and airports shut down Monday afternoon as the massive system churned in from the sea, creating 30-foot swells off the Jersey shore. The storm is on a collision course with a winter storm and a cold front, and high tides from a full moon make it a rare hybrid storm that could be felt all the way to the Great Lakes. Still, it could be worse – the storm could be well inland when evening high tide comes, some six hours after landfall.Sandy has already been blamed for 69 deaths in the Caribbean before it began traveling northward, parallel to the Eastern Seaboard. In Washington, President Obama urged the millions in Sandy’s path to heed warnings from local and state officials. “When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate,” Obama said. “Don't delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a powerful storm." States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities on Sunday, while Ocean City, Md., also was evacuated. Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate in anticipation of the storm, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City. At least 50,000 were ordered to evacuate in Delaware alone and 30,000 in Atlantic City, N.J., where the city's 12 casinos were forced to shut down for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling there. Airlines canceled more than 8,962 flights and Amtrak suspended passenger train service across the Northeast for Monday and Tuesday. New York and Philadelphia shut down their subways, buses and commuter trains Sunday night and announced that schools would be closed on Monday. Boston, Washington and Baltimore also called off school. In Washington and New Jersey, Metrorail and PATH train services were canceled. In Connecticut, the number of power outages began climbing as the storm moved through the state. In New York City, 250,000 homes were reported to be without power. "We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. An assistant manager at a Lowes store in Columbus, Ohio, told 10TV.com that people were calling in from West Virginia and Maryland to ask for supplies, and in northern Virginia, a cashier at Pitkins Ace Hardware in Dale City said batteries, flashlights and candles were flying off the shelves, PotomacLocal.com reports. The storm even put Lady Liberty on hold. The Statue of Liberty was scheduled to reopen Sunday to the public after a renovation project, but the monument will be closed Monday and Tuesday as Sandy passes through the area. The danger of the storm is hardly limited to coastal areas. Forecasters were far more worried about inland flooding from storm surge than they were about winds. Rains could saturate the ground, causing trees to topple into power lines, utility officials said, warning residents to prepare for several days at home without power. In North Carolina's Outer Banks, there was some scattered, minor flooding Sunday on the beach road in Nags Head. The Virginia National Guard was also authorized to call up to 500 troops to active duty for debris removal and road-clearing, while homeowners stacked sandbags at their front doors in coastal towns. President Obama said the storm is "serious and big" and will be "slow moving," while he was at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get an update on plans for responding to Hurricane Sandy. The White House said in a news release that the president on Sunday signed the state of emergency declaration, which had been requested by Mayor Vincent Gray. It says federal aid should supplement the city's response efforts due to the emergency conditions. The move follows the federal government's decision to close offices on Monday. The district's board of elections also announced it was suspending early voting on Monday. It has not been determined whether here will be early voting on Tuesday. Obama nixed his participation in a campaign rally in Orlando on Monday and flew back to Washington to monitor the storm. The president has instructed his team to make sure that needed federal resources are in place to support state and local recovery efforts. Mitt Romney canceled all his campaign events for Monday night and Tuesday due to the storm. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, announced in a rare move it would not convene on Tuesday. The court will hear Tuesday's arguments on Thursday.