Sunday, November 11, 2012

Abraham Lincoln's Words of Wisdom
Inside the temple that pays homage to Abraham Lincoln -- in addition to the larger-than-life image of the man -- are complete texts of his most famous speeches. I suppose he's the only American politician deserving of a memorial large enough, and whose greatest orations were short enough for this to be possible. Lincoln's image is flanked by the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address. Both acknowledge the sacrifices of the U.S. military. One refers to the necessity of caring for families bereft by war. The Lincoln Memorial faces the dome of the Capitol across the expanse of the National Mall, which is replete with symbols of historical sacrifices of those in military service. Every name on the Vietnam War Memorial recalls a veterans' sacrifice and a family's grief. Every gold star at the World War II Memorial represents a hundred of the same. Tucked away in the less imposing D.C. War Memorial are names of district citizens lost in World War I. Among the monuments to freedom that populate the mall are reminders of the price paid to secure it, not just for our own country, but for others as well. At the Korean War Memorial, an inscription says: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." The wide front steps of the Lincoln Memorial provide a wide view of the mall and are usually buzzing with sightseers. Few take the time for a quiet walk around the back of the structure to look across the Potomac River toward Arlington House. The former home of Robert E. Lee is situated on the crest of a hill, the highest point of what is now Arlington National Cemetery. Laid to rest there are many who paid the price for our nation, for the decisions made by every president since Lincoln. Some paid by giving their lives for their country. Others paid by living lives of service to their country. Last week we reelected our president. Some Americans danced in the streets at midnight. Others cried into their coffee the next morning. On election night, I followed the news and commentary on social media. Opinions were thrown around carelessly. Frustrations vented bluntly. Victory celebrated exultantly. Freedom of expression is a privilege Americans love to exercise, and so we should. We heard plenty of expression in the long run up to this election. Words count, but actions count more, and now it's time for action. Time for leaders to make tough choices and tougher compromises. Time for citizens to accept hard truths. As Americans cling to our rights we also must realize our responsibilities. Pundits shake somber heads over our polarized country. They say we're divided. We're also balanced. If one side can't overrule the other, then both sides have to work together. This is the stuff kindergarteners know, but Congress seems to forget. On Veterans Day we honor those who serve America and the president without regard to politics. Our nation's leadership should care for veterans on the same equal footing. This means supporting them and their families, of course, but more importantly, it means crossing party lines to do what's best for the nation our veterans offer their lives to preserve. Try whining to Mr. Lincoln about the ideological war between red and blue states. He might point out that the war between the Blue and the Gray involved real bullets and real blood, as well as a moral chasm. Lincoln's words on healing for this nation are carved in stone. On election night, a young Army wife posted them on Facebook. They are as applicable in the electronic age as they were at the presidential inauguration of 1865: With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

What Obama should do now: Fix immigration

By Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez
Congratulations, Mr. President. Your victory is a victory for fairness for all Americans. It is also a victory for Latinos, and one that Latinos can take a large measure of credit for making happen. They gave you 71 percent of their votes. As I traveled the country campaigning for you, especially in Latino communities in Florida, Colorado and Nevada, it was clear that Latino voters believe that you will fight for them in your second term. As I talked with Latinos, one policy was mentioned again and again: your decision to provide relief from deportation for some young immigrants. Your courageous leadership on behalf of “dreamers” touched our community and was essential to inspiring an unprecedented level of support for a Democratic candidate for president. I was there in Chicago for your victory speech; you listed “fixing our immigration system” as one of the challenges you will address in the next term. Now, together, we can validate Latino voters’ trust by making comprehensive immigration reform a top priority. I respectfully suggest that we act on reform not just if we can deal with five or six other important matters first, or if the politics look practical and manageable. Comprehensive immigration reform should be a priority because it is our nation’s urgent civil rights struggle of the moment. The policy is straightforward. Create legal immigration channels that are wide and efficient enough that people choose to go through our system, not around it. We should have an orderly system in which families can stick together, people have rights, rules are enforced and employers don’t cheat to undercut their competition. We must address reality. More than 10 million people live here without documentation. Most have been here more than 10 years, some more than 25. Most make invaluable contributions to our economy and our nation. They aren’t going anywhere. Let’s get them in the system, on the books, paying even more taxes and living with their families without fear. I even have a suggestion for how to start. Call some Republicans — Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, senator-elect Jeff Flake. Invite them to join the process. The Republican Party realized Tuesday night that Mitt Romney’s decision to wake up every morning and do something to offend America’s fastest-growing population was probably a bad idea. Promoting self-deportation? Check. Vowing to veto relief for young immigrants? Check. Cozying up to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and America’s anti-immigrant fringe? Check. Today more than ever, you will find reasonable Republicans who want to be with you searching for an immigration solution, instead of standing alone, blaming immigrants for all their problems. You know you have support for comprehensive immigration reform from Democrats. I support you. Sens. Bob Menendez and Dick Durbin are committed to leading on this issue. We are ready to work with you and Republicans to make progress. We should treat this issue as a top priority and meet right away. Is Camp David available? How many people does it sleep? Mr. President, Latinos believe in you. As you know, they were tremendously frustrated by the record pace of deportations in your first term, but on Tuesday they set aside those concerns and embraced your promise of progress during a second term. I’m eager to stand with you. Let’s put a bipartisan group together to fight for civil rights for immigrants and restore America’s great immigration tradition.

President Obama's job approval rating reaches 53%
Rasmussen Reports’ daily presidential tracking poll for Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, indicates that 53 percent approve of President Obama’s job performance – at least somewhat approve. Forty-five percent disapprove – at least somewhat disapprove. This is Obama's highest job approval rating since July of 2009.
This tops the poll conducted two and three days ago for President Barack Obama’s approval rating. Last week, following Tuesday’s national presidential election, Obama received his best Approval Index rating in almost two years as he reached an approval rating of 52 percent. Today, he reached 53 percent. The Daily Presidential Tracking Poll is updated every morning by Rasmussen Reports. Forty-eight percent of the voters polled believe Obama is a good or excellent leader while 38 percent believe he is a poor leader. A news poll indicates that 68 percent of voters believe global warming is a concern, but they are split on whether believing global warming is caused by man’s actions on earth. The country is headed in the right direction, according to 43% of the voters polled by Rasmussen. This score shows the greatest optimism since President Barack Obama has taken office in 2008. In terms of the presidential election campaign, voters felt the presidential campaign cycle of 2012 was quite negative.

Video: President Obama Lays Wreath at Arlington National Cemetery

Obama honors sacrifice made by nation's veterans
President Obama paid tribute at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington Memorial Cemetery to "the heroes over the generations who have served this country of ours with distinction.
He said the wreath he laid earlier at Tomb of the Unknowns was intended to "remember every service member who has ever worn our nation's uniform." In a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater, he said America will never forget the sacrifice made by its veterans and their families. "No ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service," the president said, adding that the country must commit every day "to serving you as well as you've served us." He spoke of the Sept. 11 generation, "who stepped forward when the Towers fell, and in the years since have stepped into history, writing one of the greatest chapters in military service our country has ever known. You've toppled a dictator and battled an insurgency in Iraq. You pushed back the Taliban and decimated al-Qaida in Afghanistan. You delivered justice to Osama bin-Laden."Obama also said this was the first Veterans Day in a decade with no American troops fighting and dying in Iraq, and that a decade of war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. Over the next few years, he said, more than 1 million service members will make the transition to civilian life. "As they come home, it falls to us, their fellow citizens, to be there for them and their families, not just now but always." Later, the president and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, greeted families in the cemetery's Section 60, home to graves of service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Turkish Weapons, Funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Are Being Smuggled to Syria

Abu Abdo, weapons smuggler who channels weapons and money from Turkey to Syria, said that the government of Development and Justice Party (AKP) is playing the major role in facilitating weapons smuggling and opening the borders for terrorists to cross to Syria. AFP quoted Abu Abdo as saying that "If Turkey tightens the security on the Syrian-Turkish borders, then the 'repels' will lose in ten days." Abu Abdo added that he has information that confirms that Turkish weapons have been purchased by Saudi and Qatari money as to be smuggled to Syria. Abu Abdo confessed to smuggling communication devices, vests, weapons and munitions to the so-called 'free army', adding that lots of goods, including food, medicine and other basic materials, are being brought to Syria from abroad because of the international sanctions imposed on the county.

Iran: Silence is not the answer
The humanitarian crisis in Iran has taken a turn for the worse, beginning a dark chapter in the country's bleak history of violating human rights. Iran has the world’s highest execution rate per capita, and is the only country in the world which continues to execute minors. In the face of international isolation and domestic unrest, the Iranian regime has begun a bloody crackdown targeting dissidents with the aim of terrorizing the population into submission. This campaign of terror includes public hangings designed as a warning to any who dare defy the regime, with as many as five individuals hanged in the streets in truly horrific spectacle. Since January, at least 386 people have been executed in Iran, second only to China in total executions. Yet many acknowledge that these numbers are only a portion of the true death toll, as the regime actively censors information and does not report many of its crimes. One shocking example of barbarity involved Iranian blogger and activist Sattar Beheshti, who was arrested for his online activism and outspoken criticism of the regime. Beheshti died while under severe torture during his interrogation proceedings. His death highlights the regimes fear of criticism and dissent, and their crackdown on freedom of information. Iran has a history of targeting journalists and bloggers, and has been known to enact severe forms of torture and cruelty in prisons. Presently, Iran’s campaign of terror has reached a fever pitch. From November 7th to the 8th, Iran executed 23 individuals in just two days. Since October 22nd the regime has undertaken 6 mass hangings with nearly 40 individuals executed. The increased rate of execution is reportedly motivated in part by a desire to expedite the cases of over 1000 prisoners on death row in Gohardasht prison alone. Will the international community standby and remain silent in the wake of such crimes? As the regime faces increased isolation will the West extend a hand to its leaders, or its citizens who withstand death and torture in their struggle for freedom? In view of the worsening human rights situation in Iran, as underlined in the latest report by the United Nations and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Security Council must address this matter and take binding measures with teeth to make clear to Tehran's rulers that such behavior will not be tolerated. At a time where the regime will stop at nothing to maintain its iron grip on power, the international community must stand with the people of Iran.

Ethiopia woman tells of sex slavery in Saudi Arabia
An Ethiopia woman revealed that she was the victim of sex slavery after she attempted to find work as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia. For H, who asked that her identity remain anonymous, her ordeal began after she took a boat to Yemen, where after two months she was able to cross into Saudi Arabia and was hired by what she told was a “nice couple” for a “decent salary.”But that is when her horrific experience began. She continues to look down at her hands, ever moving, as she retells what she was forced to endure at the hands of her Saudi bosses. “I don’t think the wife knew anything that was going on,” she is quick to point out. “But if she did hear my screams and did nothing, I hope she doesn’t sleep well.” After three weeks of relative calm, H was finding life in southern Saudi Arabia comfortable and she was hoping that much of her first paycheck would be sent back to her family in Addis Ababa. Instead, no money came. “When the fourth week came around, I was excited because I was being treated well and was doing my job I thought very good,” she continued. But the day she asked when she would receive money, the husband, who she described as a construction manager, began grabbing her and forced her to the wall. She said she was screaming, but knew that nobody would come to her aid because the wife was out shopping and the two children were at school. “He ripped my dress off and forced himself onto me. He raped me. This was just the beginning,” she said, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “He would find me almost daily and rape me. He would force me to work naked in his office if nobody was home. He would tie me up and repeatedly force himself onto me over and over for hours if the wife was out of the house. I can’t imagine that I experienced this,” she added. After four months of constant rape and sexual violence, H was able to escape late in the night after she found her door was unusually unlocked. She met up with three other Ethiopians and they fled back across the border into Yemen, where they were flown out of the country this fall as part of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) flights. Her story is not unusual, she says, revealing that at least three other Ethiopian women were raped while working in Saudi Arabia. “I would never wish any woman to work in Saudi Arabia, the stories I hear are horrific and I know how we are treated. We are slaves to whatever they want,” she added. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants and refugees have entered Yemen since the end of July, according to a new report published by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). The report said that some 51,000 Ethiopians have illegally crossed into Yemen after the short boat trip. H is just one of the many Ethiopian women who attempted to have a better life outside their native country.

Saudi Grand Mufti issues edict against contact with foreign media

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia on Friday issued a religious edict prohibiting contact with foreign media, in order to protect the Kingdom's security and religion. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh decreed that contacting foreign media outlets was "not permissible and is considered betrayal and assistance to the enemies of Islam" and amounted to “treason and major crime" Al Arabiya reported. The Grand Mufti went on to say that foreign media seeks to “spread chaos and strife in Muslim lands" and contact with them is a threat to Saudi security and religion. As the highest religious authority in the Kingdom, the Grand Mufti's words carry great weight in a country already deemed one of the most censored in the world. Following the wake of pro-democracy protests across North Africa and the Middle East, censorship in Saudi Arabia was tightened. According to CPJ "No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011." Additionally "international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation." As censorship was tightened HRW reported "The Ministry of Culture and Information heavily censored print and broadcast media. Internet critics crossing vague 'red lines' faced arrest." Amongst the new laws was one which prohibited anything which could damage the reputation of the Grand Mufti. Over the course of the year Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has issued a number of restrictive edicts in the name of Islam. In March Israel National News reported he declared it was “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." In September Digital Journal reported the Grand Mufti "called upon governments and international bodies to criminalize insults against prophets." Read more:

Saudi Opposition Figure Complains about Corruption in Riyadh's Judiciary
Corruption and bribery have deep roots in the Saudi judicial system, Fuad Ibrahim, an opposition figure, complained, adding that the country's judiciary issues verdicts in favor of Saudi princes in return for huge sums of money. "Saudi Arabia's judicial system is corrupt and totally dependant on the ruling dynasty. In many cases, it is bribed with millions of dollars to issue verdicts in favor of princes," Ibrahim said on Sunday. He also referred to numerous cases of corruption in other Saudi governmental bodies and ministries, and said the interior ministry of the country distorts intelligence information and proofs and uses fake reports to cover up its crimes against the people. Saudi Arabia has arrested a large number of opposition figures since the start of popular protests in the country in February 2011 and it resorts to any means, including poisoning their food, to put the prisoners under pressure. Some international bodies including Amnesty International have frequently raised concerns about the situation of prisoners and condition of human rights in Saudi Arabia. In the most recent case, the International Amnesty has called on Riyadh to avoid using excessive force against protesters and respect people's rights of peaceful assembly. Amnesty International also called on Saudi authorities to investigate the killings of protesters in the Kingdom. "Despite promising to investigate deaths of people at the hands of the security forces, there has been no indication this ever happened," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director for the Middle-East and North Africa. "The authorities must end their silence and announce both the details and the outcome of any investigations and state whether any official suspected of unlawful killing has been brought to justice. "They must also ensure that those people marching today are allowed to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and are not met with excessive force." Saudi Arabia is witnessing daily popular protests to mark the deaths of at least 14 people in connection with protests in the country since last year. Reports vary as to how those killed in connection with the protests lost their lives. Eyewitnesses have said that some of those who died were either not taking part in demonstrations or, if they were, posed little or no risk to the security forces. All demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia, but they have been taking place in Saudi Arabia's predominantly Shiite Muslim Eastern Province since February 2011 to protest the arrest, imprisonment and harassment of members of the Shiite community for holding collective prayer meetings, celebrating Shiite religious festivals and for breaching restrictions on building Shiite mosques and religious schools. The demonstrations in the Eastern Province have been inspired in part by protests that swept the Middle-East and North Africa region in 2011. The Saudi authorities have responded with repressive measures against those suspected of taking part in or supporting protests or of expressing views critical of the state. Protesters have been held without charge and incommunicado for days or weeks at a time, and in some cases reportedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while in detention.

Bahrain For the first time since 1400 years: Citizens deprived from attending Friday prayer

The regime forces in Bahrain forcibly deprived citizens from attending weekly held Friday prayers in one of the most popular mosques in Bahrain. The forces setup tens of checkpoints and chased pedestrians of men, women and children heading to the mosque in Duraz area. They perpetrated unprecedented heinous violations against citizens.
Al-Wefaq considered this act a strange incident that Bahrain has never witnessed before, since the first days of Islam before 1400 years. “This reflects the tyrannical mentality and state absence Bahrain suffers from”, Al-Wefaq stated. Since the early morning ofFriday 9th November 2012, huge numbers of regime forces; which are made up of a majority of mercenaries; deployed armoured vehicles and troops in all main and feeder roads that lead to the area of the central prayer in order to block all ways in the face of thousands of worshipers. The regime forces attacked the citizens when they stepped out of cars and attempted to walk cross checkpoints and military roadblocks. Worshipers were faced with the excessive use of force and brutal violence of the regime forces. Consequently, many injuries occurred, some of which are serious. Helicopters flew over the area, while huge numbers of police patrols deployed, filling main and feeder roads near Duraz area and beyond. They unlawfully attempted to ban the prayers and disallow participation. The regime forces used the internationally-prohibited birdshot along with excessive toxic gases causing many injuries between worshipers; especially elderly. What’s more, they used these grenades as live ammunitions, firing directly at citizens. This caused a number of injuries between the citizens, one of which was a skull fracture due to a direct shot to the head. The injured man was admitted for urgent surgery to save his life. Some citizens had to walk a few kilometers on feet. They were chased and attacked with arms by the forces and. Many citizens were arbitrarily arrested the security cordon was tightened. Other citizens were subjected to severe beatings and ugly physical assault. A nearby farm caught fire due to the police’s intensive shootings, the fire reached a number of cars causing damages and burns. Streets and roads were over-jammed because of the big number of roadblocks. Despite all of the arbitrary, unlawful and inhumane measures, thousands of worshipers succeeded to cross the security cordon and actively participate in the Friday prayer behind Ayatollah Issa Qassim in Duraz.

Bahrain Guard forces deploy against unrest
Bahrain’s paramilitary National Guard deployed into new areas around the violence-wracked Gulf nation on Saturday in an apparent sign that authorities are stepping up efforts to quell political unrest. Wider use of the Guard could signal a tougher strategy by Bahrain’s government as riot police struggle to contain the opposition uprising. A government statement said the Guard — a force separate from the regular military — will be patrolling “strategic locations” that have been scenes of arson attacks and clashes. Hadi Al Musawi, a spokesman for the main opposition group Al Wefaq, said Guard troops were seen setting up in Sitra, a centre of the revolt. Previously, Guard forces have been used mainly at key sites in Manama, including the landmark square that was the centre of the protests in their first weeks.Meanwhile, heavy clashes erupted on Saturday after the funeral of a teenager killed in a traffic incident during a clampdown on marchers the day before. Opposition groups claim the boy was hit by a car while fleeing security forces, but officials say the incident had no connection to the police action. More than 55 people have died in unrest in Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain police kill teen on his way to mosque

5,000 child brides in Saudi Arabia
More than 5,000 girls below the age of 14 are married off in Saudi Arabia, according to media reports. There have been 5,622 marriages where the bride is under the age of 14 in Saudi Arabia, said Ali Abdul Rahman Al Roumi, a social services academic at Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University, adding that specifying a legal age would not solve the problem, and may lead to “even bigger problems”. A number of families from “rural areas” have been marrying their daughters off to older, rich men, according to the Saudi owned Al Hayat newspaper. “We must solve this, by at least looking at the difference in age in cases where the bride is young, in which case it can be deceptive” he said. He did not specify what period of time that figure represents.He added however that it was “not a trend”. Al Roumi disagreed with those who opposed imposing a legal age for marriage, saying it was a necessary step but that exceptions could be made provided that the age difference between the husband and wife was not large, and if it was disclosed how much money was given to the bride’s parents, in an effort to prevent what has been termed as “bride selling” to rich people. Shura Council member Abdullah Bin Saleh Al Hadeithi said that the ministry of justice is studying the implementation of a legal marriage age, but added that the council has never discussed the issue.

Afghanistan project is money ill-spent
Now it can be told: United States government auditors are finally acknowledging that Afghan security forces will be incapable of defending the nation from the Taliban after Western forces withdraw in 2014. What does this mean? The Taliban, obviously determined to return to power, will most certainly retake most of the nation. The hapless Afghan army will probably just run away. That's what it did almost as soon as the Soviet Union, the last foreign occupier, pulled out. Does that mean the U.S. has simply wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and 2,000 American lives? Not entirely. The war's original purpose was to wreak revenge on al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks, to capture or kill its leadership and destroy its training camps. That was accomplished. But in short order, al-Qaeda simply moved to other unstable states -- Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Algeria ... the list is long. The Obama administration's long-stated fear is that when Western forces leave Afghanistan, al-Qaeda might return. The Taliban would certainly welcome them back. My view: Be our guests. It would be far easier to attack them in Afghanistan than in some of their other present locations -- particularly Pakistan. Now that al-Qaeda has bases all over the world, why is holding onto Afghanistan so important anyway? In its new quarterly report, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, a federal agency Congress established in 2008, said its audits found that the Afghan army "will likely be incapable of fully sustaining Afghan National Security Forces facilities after the transition in 2014." The army's record at this is disheartening. In February, American soldiers turned over a forward operating base west of Kabul to their Afghan counterparts. When they returned in August, the Americans found what they described as a "dismal scene." The Afghan soldiers hadn't kept up the generator and were down to three hours of electricity a day. Nearly all of their vehicles had broken down. They had no working night-vision goggles, so they were largely defenseless after dark. Stories like that are rife. In one eastern base near the Pakistan border turned over to the Afghans this year, the new tenants allowed the place to run down so severely that they finally abandoned it and deserted. But they left behind their chickens; they had turned the water-well building into a chicken coop. If Afghan security forces cannot maintain forward operating bases, they won't be able to defend most of the country. It's just that simple.Not surprisingly, the Pentagon offered only qualified endorsement of the inspector general's report. "There are problems that do come up, and obstacles," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said last Thursday. "But our commitment to the strategy remains sound," adding that "overall, we think the process is going well." That's a typically over-optimistic military statement. Can you imagine any Pentagon officer ever saying: "This is hopeless. We can't win." Well, Congress doesn't buy it. "America's 'Can do!' response to the challenge" in Afghanistan "is admirable," the Congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan reported. "But human and financial resources have limits, and long-term costs are seldom considered when short-term plans are being framed." By that, the commissioners were saying, U.S. military and civilian agencies almost never take into account whether the host country has the skills and financial resources to maintain a big, expensive project after the U.S. leaves, leading to "vast amounts of spending with little or no benefit." Even with the discouraging experiences over the last decade, Congress is continuing to appropriate billions for army "sustainment" -- buildings and equipment for Afghan soldiers who are incapable of maintaining them. The total appropriated so far is $9 billion. In fact, the special inspector general noted, "the U.S. has surpassed its goals in procuring equipment" for the Afghan army, even though the Afghan army and police "do not have the capability to operate and maintain garrisons and training centers built for them." The inspector general made the same point that the Congressional commission stressed: "Billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer funds will be at risk of going to waste." What's so perplexing is that Congress chartered both the special inspector general's office and the Congressional commission, whose staff spent three years studying the problem. Still, Congress is blithely ignoring their conclusions -- including this one from its own commissioners: Spending money on a project "is wasteful if it does not fit the cultural, political and economic norms of the society it is meant to serve, or if it cannot be maintained."

U.S. confession belies Afghan stance on 'most wanted' Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah

The U.S. military's confession that the 'most wanted' Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah is hiding in eastern Afghanistan has belied the declaration made earlier by Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) on October 28 that Fazlullah was not hiding in Afghanistan, but is operating from Pakistani territory under the protection of Qari Ziaur Rehman, an Al-Qaeda linked Taliban commander. The U.S. admission has also given credence to Pakistani intelligence reports stating that several key leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including Mullah Fazlullah, are not only being sheltered in Afghanistan but some of them have already been issued Temporary Travel Documents (TTD) to facilitate their cross border movements, reports The News. According to sources, Fazlullah and five other fugitive commanders of the TTP have already been advised by the Afghan intelligence community to accept foreign identity so that the Karzai administration Kabul can forcibly refute Pakistani claims about their presence in Afghanistan. Pakistani establishment alleges that the Afghan intelligence agencies and the governor of Kunar Province, Fazlullah Wahidi, are backing Mullah Fazlullah and his private Army. Kabul remains in a state of denial about his presence in Afghanistan despite having been provided credible information about his precise locations in the Kamadesh and Chapa Dara districts of the Nuristan and Kunar provinces. The Washington Post in its report, however, quoted senior U.S. military and intelligence officials saying that Fazlullah, the mastermind of the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai, operates from an Afghan area adjoining Pakistan where several hundred U.S. troops are currently stationed. But US officials also made it clear that finding Fazlullah was not a priority because he was not affiliated either with Al-Qaeda or with insurgents targeting American and Afghan interests in Afghanistan.

Iftikhar Jhagra, other PTI leaders may rejoin PPP

Four politicians including three leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) met with Pakistan People’s Party provincial President Anwar Saifullah Khan who invited them to join the PPP, sources said on Friday. The sources said that PTI leaders Iftikhar Jhagra and Syed Iftikhar Ali Shah held a meeting with Anwar Saifullah in Akbarpura village in Nowshera district. PPP leader and chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources Tariq Khattak and PPP’s provincial senior vice-president Azam Afridi were also present at the meeting that took place at the residence of Syed Iftikhar Ali Shah in Akbarpura. “Iftikhar Jhagra told Anwar Saifullah to let him think about the offer. He promised to inform him of his decision by November 17,” a PPP leader privy to the meeting told The News. Anwar Saifullah, the sources said, also spoke to another PTI leader Qurban Ali Khan on phone as he was not present at the meeting. Qurban Ali assured Anwar Saifullah that he too would consider rejoining the PPP. Iftikhar Ali Shah had quit the PPP due to the alleged undemocratic attitude of former PPP provincial president Senator Sardar Ali Khan. Iftikhar Jhagra and former Member Provincial Assembly Qurban Ali Khan had also quit the PPP and joined the PTI. Anwar Saifullah, the sources said, informed Iftikhar Ali Shah and Iftikhar Jhagra about the efforts being made to woo back disgruntled PPP workers and invited them to rejoin the PPP. The sources in the PPP said that PPP Co-Chairman, President Asif Ali Zardari had directed Anwar Saifullah to make concerted efforts to persuade the estranged party workers to return to the party fold and campaign for PPP candidates in the next general election. “The PPP Khyber Pakhtun-khwa leadership has been tasked to reorganise the party in the province before the forthcoming polls so that it could win maximum number of seats and form the government,” a PPP leader wishing to remain anonymous said. Meanwhile, the sources said that known social worker Ali Khan and Shoaib Khan from Akbarpura have also decided to join the PPP. They said that Anwar Saifullah had invited them to join the PPP. Ali Khan, the sources said, would make the announcement at a public gathering on November 13. Anwar Saifullah, the sources said, also held talks with Arbab Manzoor Khan in Lala Killay and managed to persuade him to announce joining the PPP. Arbab Manzoor is an old friend and class-fellow of Anwar Saifullah and is expected to make the announcement soon.

Pakistan says education key to tackling Taliban

Deutsche Welle
Pakistan has declared education for girls as a way to subdue Taliban extremists who wounded a young campaigner last month. A petition honoring Malala Yousafzai has been delivered to Islamabad by UN envoy Gordon Brown. To mark Saturday as Malala Day as designated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the presidents of Pakistan and its estranged neighbor Afghanistan vowed separately to tackle deadly Taliban aversion to education for girls. Pakistani President Ali Zardari described the Taliban shooting of the 15-year-old Yousafzai in a school bus in Swat province on October 9 as an attempt to destroy the country's future prospects. "Her attackers aren't just trying to kill a daughter of Pakistan. They are trying to kill Pakistan," Zardari said as he received a petition bearing 1 million signatures in support of Yousafzai from UN education envoy Gordon Brown, a former British prime minister. Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan said that Pakistan's leaders "firmly believe" that education "helps fight forces of extremism and intolerance." Karzai vows hunt for attackers Visiting India, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his administration would "hunt for Malala's attackers." In an interview with India's CNN-IBN television network, Karzai accused Pakistan of tolerating the Taliban in border regions alongside Afghanistan for too long. "Terrorism is a snake, and when you train a snake, you can't expect it will only go in the neighbor's house," Karzai said. "When the attack on Malala happened, this proved our point."Malala is recovering in a British clinic after miraculously surviving shots to her head and neck. Two other schoolgirls with her were also wounded. Fear prevails in hometown In her hometown of Mingora in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley on Saturday, hundreds of students prayed at school assembly for her early recovery. "We did not organize any open event because our school and its students still face a security threat," said school principal Mariam Khalid. Ban sent a video message saying Malala is a global symbol of every girl's right to education. On Friday, Pakistan's government announced a UN-backed scheme to give poor families small cash incentives to send their children to school in a bid to get 3 million more youngsters into education.

Talibanisation in Balochistan

Talibanisation has touched a dangerous level in Balochistan. The Pashtun Tehreek Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have joined hands with each other, in a move seen as extremely harmful for Balochistan. This was revealed in a report that claimed the law and order situation in Balochistan has taken a new direction due to the collusion of two groups. According to the report, district Zhob in Balochistan is under the control of the Taliban where Talibanisation is rapidly increasing. Like Fata, the extremists are targeting pro-government tribal leaders in the district. The report, issued by the Conflict Monitoring Centre Islamabad, said that militancy in Balochistan has taken a complex shape. Among the Baloch community some of the formerly secular individuals in Balochistan have tilted towards extremism. It is not a secret that the militants of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are targeting the Hazara community of Balochistan. On the other hand, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Balochistan is working in the Pashtun areas. According to the report, Talibanisation is touching the red line in Balochistan and the Taliban are issuing orders to the local tribal Sardars. The report further revealed that the operations and activities of the security forces have been confined in Balochistan as a result.

Pakistan urges all Afghan insurgents to pursue peace

Pakistan hopes to persuade Afghan insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, to pursue peace but worries resistance from political factions opposed to the Taliban could undermine reconciliation efforts, Islamabad’s ambassador to Kabul said. Mohammad Sadiq, speaking in an interview, also suggested US efforts would be better directed at engaging insurgent groups – rather than attempting to defeat them by launching military strikes against their leaders. Sadiq was speaking just ahead of an expected visit to Pakistan by an Afghan peace council due to give Islamabad a road map of how it wants its influential neighbour to help end the war with the Afghan Taliban, now in its 11th year. “Afghans are much more united in wanting to join the reconciliation process than they were two years ago,” he said. “But still there are very important people who fought against the Taliban and are not still ready to talk and negotiate with the Taliban. And we are working with them.” Sadiq was referring to former members of the Northern Alliance, which toppled the Afghan Taliban in 2001 with US backing. Some now occupy government positions or are in the opposition. President Hamid Karzai set up a High Peace Council comprised of members of diverse Afghan ethnic and political groups to try to ease mistrust between the Taliban and its traditional enemies and forge a peace deal. The task has gained urgency as most Nato combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of 2014 and hand over security to Afghan government forces. Lack of progress has fuelled fears of a civil war and some Afghans worry the Taliban will try and seize power again if no comprehensive political settlement is reached before then. Pakistan’s appeal to ‘entire Afghan armed opposition’ Afghanistan’s government has failed to secure direct talks with the Taliban and no significant progress is expected before 2014, a senior Afghan official closely involved with reconciliation efforts told Reuters on Friday. Afghan officials have often seen Pakistan as a reluctant partner in attempts to broker talks, saying Islamabad is long on promises and short on action. Kabul accuses Pakistan’s spy agency of using groups like the Haqqani network as proxies to counter the influence of rival India in Afghanistan. Islamabad denies the allegations. “The prime minister of Pakistan had appealed to all insurgent groups to engage in negotiations,” said Sadiq. “We will encourage all insurgents. We will encourage the entire armed opposition of Afghanistan to participate in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.” The Haqqani faction, allied with the Taliban, is seen by the US as the most dangerous Afghan militant group, blamed for high-profile attacks in Kabul and other cities. Afghanistan said in August it believed a top commander of the group, Badruddin Haqqani, had been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. Pakistan has argued that negotiations stand a better chance of delivering stability. “I think normally with insurgents one thing is very clear – that deaths have not weakened them because they replace commanders very quickly. They’re able to replace them in a day or so,” said Sadiq, suggesting the Americans should have learned from the Russian experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s. “They have people. By killing their people you cannot weaken them. The Soviets killed 1 million, 2 million people. It didn’t weaken the insurgency against them.” Afghanistan is known to want access to Taliban leaders belonging to the so-called Quetta Shura, or council, named after the Pakistani city where they are said to be based, an issue the peace council is likely to raise. Pakistan denies giving sanctuary to insurgents and says no Taliban leaders are in Quetta. An official with the council said it would also be pushing Islamabad to repatriate Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former second in command, in detention in Pakistan. Afghan officials believe Baradar could serve as an effective conduit for negotiations with Taliban leaders if sent to Kabul. An Afghan official told Reuters that Pakistan had promised to hand over Baradar in September. Asked what Pakistan would be willing to do to push the struggling reconciliation process forward, Sadiq said: “Expectations should be reasonable about what we can do because Pakistan and Taliban are not one party. We don’t control them, we don’t give them weapons, we do not give money to them.” Sadiq said Afghanistan should strive to make sure any government that runs the country should include all ethnic groups and parties to preclude any repeat of past turmoil. “A representative government will automatically help in reducing the insurgency, reducing the tension among ethnicities, it will go a long way in preventing a civil war.”

PML-N follows Talibans school of thought

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira Saturday said PML-N followed the Talibans school of thought. On the other hand, Malala Yousufzai was symbolic of the school of thought followed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, adding that, said federal information minister. Speaking at a press conference in Karachi, Kaira said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had also been accused of taking funds from Osama bin Laden.The minister added that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case, the government elected as a result of the 1990 elections had lost its legal standing.He said both governments headed by Benazir Bhutto were overthrown through bogus mandate. Kaira added that advertising campaigns using fake names had also been run against the PPP.The minister added that Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was used during the campaign for the creation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and was later discarded in order to bring in Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister.

In solidarity with Malala

Exactly one month after the Pakistani Taliban showed the whole world just how brutal they could be by shooting a 15-year-old girl for the crime of wanting to obtain an education, the United Nations declared November 10 as ‘Malala Day’ — a mark of global solidarity for the girl who stood up against monsters when adults were too scared to. The UN has taken this wonderful step to let the world — and especially Pakistan — know that Malala’s efforts have not been in vain, and that her spirit and cause should be championed by the world at large. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is also the UN ambassador for global education, has presented the Pakistani government with a petition signed by one million people to show their support for Malala Yousafzai. Mr Brown has also informed the Pakistani government that a foundation, named the Malala Foundation, has been set up to honour the young girl and to campaign for the 32 million girls around the world who are deprived of education — what Malala wanted to do before she was cruelly shot in the head. In addition to all these heart-warming accolades, campaigners in the UK are pushing to have Malala nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — so far, 100,000 people have signed the petition and the momentum is only increasing. This is not just support; it is across-the-board solidarity for Malala Yousafzai who has become a universal symbol of resistance against Taliban ideology. While the world rejoiced to celebrate this young warrior, schoolgirls in Malala’s hometown of Mingora, Swat were unable to pay tribute in public because of fears related to Taliban retaliation. Due to looming threats, Malala’s class fellows could not hold any special service for their injured champion — instead they held a candlelight vigil and prayed for her safety. The two young girls who were injured during the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai still look over their shoulder in fear as they do not feel safe. They may be haunted by the memory of the shooting but they have not backed down from wanting an education and risking their lives to get it. No matter where in the world, Malala has been honoured and prayed for on November 10 by everyone who has a heart. If there is one thing sure to make the militants see red, it must be the fact that they have made a hero out of their innocent target. To completely realise the uphill task Malala was trying to tackle one only needs to see the statistics. UNESCO’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report (EFAGMR) has ranked Pakistan as being in the bottom 10 countries, the world over, when it comes to female education. According to the report 62 percent of girls in Pakistan, between the ages of seven and 15, have never seen the inside of a school. These are appalling figures and only serve to further elaborate Malala’s struggle. The fact that Malala is now in the spotlight must be used to further the cause of female education and emancipation in this country. The nation must wake up from its slumber and actually see how young girls are being denied their fundamental right to education and enlightenment. It is paramount that the government join hands with all those nations that support Malala’s cause by concentrating on the education of this country’s youth. While the president has announced that a cash stipend will be provided to three million families (with aid from the World Bank) to ensure their children are educated, one hopes to see this fervour remain after the Malala affair tones down. The Taliban are counting on us forgetting this young angel soon — let us not grant them that wish.

Fears blight ‘Malala Day’ in schoolgirl’s hometown

Pakistan marked “Malala Day” Saturday on a global day of support for the teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education, but in her home town security fears meant her schoolmates could not honour her in public. Taliban hitmen shot Malala Yousufzai on her school bus a month ago in Mingora in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley, in a cold-blooded murder attempt for the “crime” of campaigning for girls’ rights to go to school. Miraculously the 15-year-old survived and her courage has won the hearts of millions around the world, prompting the United Nations to declare Saturday a “global day of action” for her. People around the world held vigils and demonstrations honouring Malala and calling for the 32 million girls worldwide who are denied education to be allowed to go to school. Demonstrations backing Malala took place in Islamabad, Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf saluted Malala’s courage. But in Mingora, the threat of further Taliban reprisals cast a fearful shadow, and students at Malala’s Khushal Public School were forced to honour her in private. “We held a special prayer for Malala today in our school assembly and also lit candles,” school principal Mariam Khalid told AFP. “We did not organise any open event because our school and its students still face a security threat.” Though their bid to kill Malala failed, the Taliban have said they will attack any woman who stands against them. Fears are so great that Khalid said even speaking to the media could put students’ lives in danger. Two of Malala’s friends were wounded in the attempt on her life and one, 16-year-old Kainaat Riaz, said she was still haunted by memories of the attack. “I am still terrified. I still get tears in my eyes whenever I think of that incident. I saw Malala in the pool of blood in front of me with my eyes,”she told AFP. Shazia Ramzan, 13, spent a month in hospital after being shot in the shoulder during the attack, but she said it had made her even more determined to go to school. “The shooting tried to stop us from getting an education, it was our test and we must pass it,” she told AFP. Malala rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC charting life in Swat under the Taliban, whose bloody two-year reign of terror supposedly came to an end with an army operation in 2009. Despite the dangers, some children in Mingora were determined to speak out and pledged to follow Malala’s example. “Malala is a good friend of mine. She is brave and has honour and whoever attacked her did a terrible thing,” Asma Khan, 12, a student in Saroosh Academy, close to Malala’s school, told AFP. “After the attack on her and her injuries, we have now more courage to study and now we will fulfil her mission to spread education everywhere.”Khan’s schoolmate Gul Para, 12, added: “Malala is the daughter of the nation and we are proud of her. “She has stood by us and for our education up to now and now it is time that we should stand by her and complete her mission.” On Saturday Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised to search for Malala’s attackers and accused Islamabad of having armed and trained the teenager’s assailants. “Afghanistan will hunt for Malala’s attackers,” he said in an interview with India’s CNN-IBN television network, broadcast as he began a four-day visit to the South Asian nation. “Terrorism is a snake and when you train a snake, you can’t expect it will only go in the neighbour’s house. When the attack on Malala happened, this proved our point,” he added. “The earlier they (the Pakistanis) accept it and fight radicalism, the better for us, the better for Pakistan and the better for India.” Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Malala to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and on Friday UN special education envoy Gordon Brown handed a separate million-strong petition in support of Malala to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Zardari on Friday announced a scheme funded with help from international donors to give poor families cash incentives to send their children to school in a bid to get three million more youngsters into education. “As long as there are girls out of school anywhere in the world, Malala will be their beacon of hope,” Brown said on Saturday.

President Zardari takes notice of Karachi unrest

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari has directed for effective measures to improve law and order situation in Sindh. He gave these directions to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on telephone at Saturday night. Meanwhile‚ taking notice of the killing of several people in terrorist incidents in Karachi‚ the Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad talked to Sindh Chief Minister on the situation in the city. They also discussed measures to curb terrorist incidents. The Governor also directed DG Rangers‚ IG Police and other concerned authorities to take effective measures to protect the life and property of the people.

Karachi: Upsurge in violence: PM orders strict action as Karachi bleeds anew

An upsurge of sectarian and political violence swept through Karachi on Saturday, despite the prime minister’s presence in the city, as 20 people, including seven people belonging to the Deobandi school of thought, became the latest victims of targeted killings. Six students of the Jamia Arabia Ahsanul Uloom seminary were shot dead in Gulshan-e-Iqbal by at least four men on two motorcycles. The armed men drove up to a teashop where the seminary students had gathered and sprayed them with bullets. The killings caused the law and order situation in Gulshan-e-Iqbal to soon deteriorate as people took to the streets to protest against the incident. This was the second attack on seminary students within a month. In a separate incident on Saturday, a 28-year-old man was gunned down in the North Nazimabad neighbourhood. He also belonged to the Deobandi school of thought and was the information secretary of Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat’s North Nazimabad unit. Twelve other people were killed in separate incidents in different parts of the city. Saturday’s killings come less than a week after the Supreme Court directed the police and law enforcement agencies to ensure peace in Karachi. There has not been any significant change regarding Karachi’s frequent killing sprees despite the apex court’s suo motu notice regarding Karachi’s deteriorating law and order situation. The city’s descent into violence coincided with the visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who expressed his anger at the way the police and other security agencies were dealing with criminals. There seemed to be no writ of security forces, as police and Rangers were missing from the scene, while many youngsters, brandishing automatic guns, were seen roaming the roads and resorting to aerial firing. During a meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali and Sindh Governor Dr Ishtraul Ebad Khan, Prime Minister Ashraf directed the two top officials of the province to take strict action again those responsible for the incidents, and provide security to the citizens. The city also witnessed similar violence four days ago, when the prime minister had convened a meeting at the Governor House. During the meeting, the chief minister, citing intelligence reports, briefed the prime minister about the looming threats before Muharram. After the briefing, the premier ordered the Sindh government to take targeted action against suspects but no tangible result has come out, so far. Earlier, while briefing the media after inaugurating the Al-Haj Faw Motors Automobile Assembly plant at Port Bin Qasim in Karachi, Prime Minister Ashraf said he had directed the Sindh government to stop the slide in Karachi’s law and order situation and take action against the suspects involved. “All political parties should give up disparity and join hands against criminals elements, terrorism and extremism,” he said. He added that the government would implement Supreme Court orders and urged all political parties to dispel criminal elements from their rank and file. The prime minister pointed out that more than 400,000 people had already been killed in terrorist attacks across Pakistan, while the government has spent billions of rupees on the war against terrorism. “The government will not let criminals kill innocent people. I have asked the provincial government to start a surgical operation and eliminate criminals,” he said. President Asif Ali Zardari meanwhile contacted the Sindh chief minister late Saturday night regarding the day’s violence. No confrontation, PM reiterates During the brief media chat, the prime minister once again ruled out the existence of any confrontation between institutions in the country, reiterating that all institutions were working within their domain. “Please try to understand, and avoid likening confrontation to a difference of opinion,” he said. Whereas divergence of opinion is a good omen for any democratic setup, he said, a confrontation is always deadly because it undermines governance.