Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Prostitution on the rise in crisis-hit Spain

Europe not doing enough to fight child poverty

The objective of tackling child poverty has been put on the backburner at a time of austerity and many social safeguards are being sacrificed as a result - warns policy analyst According to a recent report, more than 13 million children are living in poverty in Europe - including Norway and Iceland. Furthermore, a child in Europe has a greater risk of living in poverty than the rest of the population – 27 per cent versus 23 per cent. As the whole population is threatened by persisting unfavourable labour market conditions, accompanied by a decrease in social protection expenditure and a rise in material deprivation, we believe that the situation of children in Europe is a genuine and urgent concern. Child poverty has increased in a number of countries following the recent financial and economic crisis. This is confirmed by European Commission data, which reveals that the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children increased by 0.9 per cent between 2008 and 2010. According to the research, children most at risk are from single parent households and large families - three children and more. Others at risk include children from jobless households or with parents experiencing 'in-work poverty', children with a disability and those from a migrant background as well as ethnic minorities. These trends remind us that usually, children are not poor by themselves. They will struggle to develop or fully participate in society when their family is not supported and is excluded from society. This means that support for them must primarily come from direct support to the family, including financial support such as adequate child allowance for every child and an adequate minimum income for all. One way of preventing child and family poverty is through access to quality and affordable social services ensuring children and families can fully participate in society. However, providers of social and healthcare services attest to an overall increase in the demand for social services and deceasing funds with which to provide them. Cuts that we are seeing today in social services are short-sighted and self-defeating, and adequate funding must be made available to provide these services. Austerity measures and consequent cuts in public spending should not be at the cost of the most vulnerable children and families in our society as it will only lead to more vulnerable people tomorrow. Given the multi-dimensional and interrelated nature of child poverty we need to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty which can only happen through an integrated and holistic policy approach. This means mainstreaming child and family friendly policies in education, health, housing and employment. Furthermore, child well-being is more than just about meeting material needs; children also have social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. In Iceland for example, you may not see children living on the street but there are families where parents cannot afford for their children to participate in extra-curricular activities or to go on holiday. Lack of participation and unequal opportunities at an early age can lead to exclusion and can foster an intergenerational poverty cycle. For this reason, services such as high-quality after-school programmes, youth clubs and community work must be supported and invested in. In terms of the commission's upcoming 'recommendation on child Poverty and wellbeing' - to be published at the beginning of 2013 - it will bring the necessary political momentum and will set in stone the objective of tackling child poverty at a time of austerity, and when many social safeguards are being sacrificed. Such a European initiative will also contribute to reaching three out of five of the Europe 2020 targets for employment, education and poverty; and constitutes an investment by strengthening social cohesion, particularly important in the context of significant demographic challenges. However a recommendation in itself is not enough to tackle child poverty and social exclusion. The member states must respond with real commitment and put words into action. Putting child poverty high on the agenda is decisive at the European Union level, not only as a means of protecting vulnerable children today but also an investment for tomorrow as we break the cycle of poverty and increase the social return on investment for society. Research shows that the cost of non-inclusion is higher than that of inclusion, and that not investing in the most vulnerable has far-reaching consequences for society as a whole. There is simply no excuse for children living in poverty in today's Europe; it is a question of respecting rights to which all children are entitled. If not addressed through social and health services, child poverty and social exclusion will bear a human cost in terms of lost potential and wellbeing.

U.K. Third of English kids have no chance to get decent education

A study by Ofsted, England’s education watchdog, has found 30% of English schools are under-performing. With over 2 million children affected, a league table system will be set up to “name and shame” underachieving schools. Oftsed found severe inequalities in England’s education system, with pupils in some areas of the country having less than a 50% chance of being taught at a school deemed good or better. In practice this means that 2.3 million children are attending below par schools. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief inspector, said huge differences in school standards across Britain are "completely unacceptable". The annual report was based on an analysis of all schools in England during the 2011/12 academic year. Ofsted also found the “dramatic differences” in schools were exasperated by a postcode lottery and that a parent’s chances of sending their children to a good local school depend on where they live. The inspectorate discovered that the worst schools at the bottom of the table were in Coventry, where only 42% of children were attending a good or outstanding primary school and Derby with 43%. Both are industrial cities which have seen contraction and closure of key industries. But there are also differences between local authorities with similar demographics. Wigan and Darlington, traditional working class industrial areas, have good or outstanding schools. In schools deemed to be underperforming, lessons were found to be formulaic, with kids not interested in lessons or being stretched to their full potential by their teachers. The best schools were in London, with Camden boasting 92% of kids going to a good school and Barnet with 91%. Both areas have large numbers of middle class professionals, although Camden also has more poor households than almost any other part of the country. Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “We’ll be looking very carefully at what’s happening in those local authorities with the same sort of population, with similar levels of deprivation, similar numbers of children on free school meals, where one particular local authority does extremely well and another doesn’t.” “That’s the whole purpose of this [report] – to shine a spotlight on parts of the country which are underperforming,” he continued. As a result of the inspector’s ratings Ofsted is launching a league table ranking local authorities on the quality of their schools. The league table will increase pressures on local authorities at the bottom of the pile. Teachers’ unions believe that this will lead to a further push for schools to leave local authority and government control and become independent academies. Academies are self-governing and although they receive money from the state they manage their own affairs and finances. “Naming and shaming would certainly suit the education department to push all local authorities into the position of converting schools into academies,” said Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers. While David Simmonds, a spokesman for the Local Government Association, warned that, because of an increasing number of directives from central government and the move towards academies, local authorities had diminishing control of schools anyway. The government admitted that the report underlined some serious failings. “Standards in some local authorities are simply not good enough. There are still too many schools that do not provide a good enough education. The report recognizes that sponsored academies – with strong leadership and real expertise – are the best way to turn around struggling schools,” a Department of Education spokesman said. But it’s not all doom and gloom for England’s schools. There have been improvements in the last few years with 70% of schools now ranked as good or outstanding, compared to 64% five years ago. Indeed, the very existence of the table is due to increased inspections.

What would a Socialist Pakistan look like? – Speech at 31st congress of The Struggle

Written by Lal Khan
In Pakistan today millions of people feel the pain of hunger and suffer from diseases for which they receive no treatment. Under capitalism medicine, like everything else, is used for exploitation, not for treatment. In a Socialist Pakistan no man or woman will die of preventable disease. No child will go to bed hungry. There will be medicine for everybody.Consider the state of education. In our country 65 percent of children do not go to school. Millions of children are being denied basic education. I have a newspaper before me. But what good is a newspaper to a person who does not know what is written there? Illiteracy is darkness. It is a crime against humanity. Just like medicine, education under capitalism is regarded as a business. In a Socialist Pakistan education will be free for everybody and illiteracy will be a thing of the past. So useless and degenerate is the bourgeoisie of Pakistan that they cannot even provide the people with electricity. The provision of electricity ought to be a basic right in a civilised society. Yet every day millions of poor families have to suffer the torture of load-shedding [selective power cuts] and outages [power failures]. The crisis of electricity is the direct result of privatisation that was carried out underr a “democratic” regime in 1994-95. The private electricity companies produce far more electricity than they use. The potential is there to provide electricity, but it is not being used. These companies remit profits of between 3 to 4 billion US dollars every year to other countries. And Pakistan is in darkness. Why don’t these companies run on full capacity? It is because it is not profitable enough. In a Socialist planned economy such a monstrous thing would be unthinkable. A Socialist government would begin by renationalising the entire power sector, and also nationalising all the big companies involved in hydroelectric schemes, coal mining, gas, oil and all other fuels. Who produces the electricity in any case? Not the parasitic owners, but the workers. Once we have removed the parasites, we could solve this problem in one hour!The PPP Government is always promising to put an end to load-shedding. But these are empty promises because Nawaz Sharif, Zardari, Gilani and other right-wing politicians are not prepared to tackle the big power corporations. Of course, their houses do not lack electricity! As always, it is the poor people who suffer and the price of electricity is rising all the time, so that the poor people are subsidising the rich. Why should this be the case? Pakistan has huge resources which are not being tapped. In Balochistan there are estimated deposits of 1500 billion cubic feet of gas under the ground, and also vast reserves of coal. Why can’t they use these resources for the benefit of society? Instead, these valuable resources will be plundered by big foreign companies, aided and abetted by their local agents in the governments of Pakistan. Pakistan need not be a poor country. We have plenty of resources, but our corrupt Pakistani ruling class has never been able to use these resources for the benefit of the nation ever since it was established. Just look at how the wealth of Pakistan is being wasted! Sixty percent of the nation’s budget goes to pay the interest on debt. Every year vast sums of money squeezed from the workers and peasants of Pakistan flows out of the country and into the hands of foreign bankers and capitalists. The first measure of a Socialist government would be to immediately cancel all foreign debts. The truth is that these debts have already been paid time and again. Not a single rupee more must be paid to the parasites. In addition, a Socialist government would introduce a state monopoly of foreign trade, and strictly control all movements of money in and out of the country. After paying 60 percent of our national wealth to foreign bankers and capitalists, a further 30 percent is generously handed over to the Pakistani army to pay for new toys for the generals to play with, as well as furnishing them with big houses, flashy cars and fat bank balances. And what is left for the people of Pakistan after all this plunder has taken place? A miserable 10 percent is all that is left over to pay for things like healthcare, education, housing, transport and infrastructure. Only 0.4 percent is spent on people’s health, and a disgraceful 1.5 percent on education. These barbarous figures are a real condemnation of the rotten Pakistani bourgeoisie. Because of this plunder, Pakistan cannot afford to spend money on research and development which is needed to modernise our industry, renew our crumbling infrastructure and exploit our huge natural resources. It is the same story elsewhere in the so-called developing world. Nigeria is floating on a sea of oil, but its people are going hungry. It is not a lack of resources that causes these problems but the barbarous capitalist system itself. I have before me a bottle of mineral water. On the label is written the word Nestlé. This is typical of the situation of Pakistan today. Everything is dominated by giant foreign monopolies, especially the food sector. This means ever higher prices for basic foodstuffs. The capitalists are creating artificial shortages in order to increase prices. For them food is a commodity like any other, something to be used for speculation and profiteering. As a result, millions of people go hungry. A Socialist government in Pakistan would put an end to this barbarism by nationalising the productive forces and placing them at the service of the people. Socialism means production for the satisfaction of human needs and not for the sake of private profit. That is the essential difference between capitalism and socialism. Agriculture is a vital part of our national economy. In the past, the Stalinists talked a lot of nonsense about the domination of “feudalism” in Pakistan. But in Pakistan feudalism was long ago replaced by capitalist relations of production, including in agriculture. The failure of Pakistani capitalism is reflected in the remains of feudal thought and vast landed estates. Everywhere cash dominates. In 1974 Z.A. Bhutto tried to reform agriculture and even proposed to nationalise the land. But this was sabotaged by the feudal lords who handed over the titles of the land to the banks for cash. We will certainly nationalise both the land and the banks, and hand over the land to the people who cultivate it. We will encourage the peasants to enter collective farms where they will cease to be peasants and become agricultural workers with decent wages, houses, and access to schools and doctors, and decent pensions. Large-scale collective farms permit the use of the most modern technology, machinery and irrigation, which will vastly increase agricultural productivity. The application of new methods such as genetic engineering will enable us to grow new kinds of crops. Food shortages and high prices will be a thing of the past. Lenin explained the law of combined and uneven development, which we see very clearly here in Pakistan. You can see the most modern highways next to a peasant hut, which has hardly changed for 1000 years. Only under Socialism will Pakistan experience a real development: a planned economy will mean that modern technology will be freed from the shackles of profits and be placed at the service of human beings. It will be a very easy thing to satisfy everybody’s basic needs. At present, even the most basic human needs are not being met. Sixty percent of children in Pakistan suffer from stunted growth because of malnutrition. Almost 80 percent of our people are living on the verge of poverty. Let us look at yet another crime of capitalism: transport. In order to consolidate their rule over India, the British built the railways which for the first time really united the Subcontinent. That was undoubtedly a progressive step, although it was taken for the purpose of exploitation. But since independence the rotten Pakistani bourgeoisie has destroyed the railways. As a result, we have a chaotic situation on the roads. There are a lot of cars and no roads, and nowhere to park. Our towns and cities are clogged with traffic, with dreadful pollution, noise, accidents and deaths every day. A Socialist government will nationalise all transport and replace the present chaos with an integrated, planned national transportation system, including road, rail, air and sea transportation. The cost of travelling has become prohibitive. A Socialist transport system will provide cheap, efficient and clean transport for all. It could even be possible to have free public transport, at least within the cities. The bourgeoisie is destroying the railways because railways require resources which the capitalists are not willing to provide. The nationalised railways in Pakistan must be under the control of the workers. Let the workers elect the managers! I propose that the Managing Director of Pakistan Railways should be comrade Fazl-e-Qadir. I am sure he will make a better job of it than the present management! [Laughter and applause]. Ever since partition, the ruling class of Pakistan has been telling lies about our history. These lies are taught to children in the schools. They have assiduously built up the cult of Jinnah. But the real history of this land does not belong to Jinnah; it belongs to revolutionaries like Bhaghat Singh [the young revolutionary hero of the struggle against British imperialism who was executed by the British in 1931] [applause]. What has the bourgeoisie achieved in more than six decades? Look around you! See how dirty, chaotic and run-down everything is. There is not even proper sewage. There is a bad smell everywhere. The houses are crumbling. People are forced to live in stinking slums which are not fit for human habitation, while the rich live in palaces. Housing is a basic human need and the present situation is intolerable. As an immediate step to solve the problem of homelessness, a Socialist government in Pakistan will confiscate all empty and unoccupied dwellings, palaces, mansions, etc., and make them available to homeless people. A Socialist government in Pakistan will nationalise all the big building companies, the big cement and brick companies, and the steel and plastic industry. We will launch an emergency crash house building programme aimed at building a million new homes a year. Why should this not be possible? What is needed to build houses? We have plenty of land. There are plenty of bricks and cement lying idle, and much more can be produced. And there are millions of unemployed workers who should be mobilised to build houses, schools and roads. Town planning is non-existent in Pakistan today. Cities like Karachi are a nightmare. They are not fit places for human beings to live in. In a Socialist Pakistan we will guarantee a decent house for every family with plenty of room to live. Rents could be very low or even abolished altogether. In the Soviet Union, housing was practically free, and included free gas, electricity and even telephones. This is entirely possible. A Socialist Pakistan would need to defend itself against enemies – both internal counter-revolutionary forces and foreign intervention. We will therefore require an army, but the army that we require will not be anything like the Pakistani army of today. This is an instrument of repression which is not so much aimed against a foreign enemy as against the people of Pakistan. Just look at the monstrous way they behave in Balochistan and Pukhtunhua! The army top brass have been selected as a special privileged caste. They see themselves as being above the rest of society. They keep the army separated from the people and use it for their own purposes. But the ordinary soldiers come from the working class and the peasantry. They share the same problems. While the top generals live a life of luxury, it is the ordinary soldiers, NCOs and junior officers who are sent to the most dangerous places where they are being killed every day. Thus, the army reflects the class contradictions in society. The army of a Socialist Pakistan will be a People’s Army. We stand for the democratisation of the army and the election of officers. The army must be the servant of the people and not the master. In a socialist Pakistan every worker and peasant will be taught the use of arms and provided with basic military training. There will be a People’s Militia in every factory and every village, willing to fight to the death to defend the gains of the Revolution. This will be a deterrent far more powerful than nuclear weapons! The capitalists are constantly increasing exploitation. They talk about increasing productivity, when in reality what they mean is profitability. The two things are not the same. Actually, there is no future for business students under capitalism. Genuine scientific management will only be possible in a Socialist planned economy, where production will be organised under the democratic control of the workers, together with the best scientists, technicians and engineers. A socialist Pakistan will not require a bloated bureaucratic state like the one that presently devours a huge part of the wealth produced by the working class. The running of society will be done far more cheaply and efficiently by the working people themselves, organized in democratically elected committees, like the soviets in Russia in 1917. The word soviet is a Russian word meaning a council. But we have a perfectly good word in our own language, Panchayat, which means the same thing. The Panchayats will decide everything. They will have far more power than the National Assembly. The ordinary people will have confidence in them – which they do not have for any state institution today. And people will no longer live in fear of the state and the police as they do now. We will not need high court judges. Instead of judges there will be People’s Tribunals in every street, village and factory. That will be far more effective in dealing with crime than the present set-up where people do not trust the police or the authorities. Socialist Revolution means the awakening of the people. Revolution will bring the people to their feet, raising them to the level of true human beings and giving them the perspective of a new life. In a Socialist Pakistan the masses will feel for the first time that society really belongs to them. They will feel that nobody can oppress them. Under capitalism people are not free at all. They are slaves of Capital. This is an inhuman society in which people are encouraged to be greedy and compete against each other in an animal struggle for existence. This unhealthy spirit of competition is even inculcated into the minds of little children in the schools. It is an inhuman and immoral philosophy. Socialism will encourage a different outlook, based on human solidarity, in which people will learn to respect each other and help each other. The relations between men and women will be transformed, on the basis of complete equality. In order to assure the future of the human race, the two main obstacles in the way of progress must be abolished. These obstacles are private ownership of the means of production and the nation state. The present frontiers of Pakistan, in fact, are completely artificial. The American socialist John Reed wrote a marvellous book about the Russian Revolution called Ten Days that Shook the World. In the same way, a Socialist Pakistan will immediately shake all Asia to the foundations. It will be an irresistible beacon to the masses in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran and further afield. A Socialist revolution in Pakistan would very quickly spread to India and Bangladesh. In place of the old artificial frontiers the workers and peasants of the Subcontinent will create a Socialist Federation with full autonomy for all the different nationalities. The establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Subcontinent will put an end to the nightmare of fratricidal wars, national oppression and communalism. It will represent a giant step towards a Socialist World Federation. We will defend the right of self-determination. If the people of Balochistan wish to set up their own state we will not oppose it. However, it is our fervent belief that the interests of all the peoples can best be served by joining together in a voluntary, free and equal Federation. By combining the vast resources of the whole Subcontinent in a democratic socialist plan, we can realise the limitless potential of this land. Under a planned economy a growth rate of ten percent per annum would be a very modest target. This will mean a doubling of the economy within the space of a couple of five year plans. This will be more than sufficient to achieve the total eradication of poverty, homelessness and illiteracy. But the satisfaction of basic human needs is only the starting point of the building of a socialist society. Our aim is to create a society based on superabundance that will enable men and women to develop their full potential as human beings. With the creation of an economy of superabundance, the animal struggle for life will disappear, and with it the material basis of the class struggle. It will transform all aspects of social life, creating the conditions for a genuine cultural revolution. Art, science, literature and music will flourish as never before. When people are freed from want, the state itself will begin to lose its coercive aspect and gradually dissolve into society. A new stage of human development will dawn. In the phrase of Frederick Engels it will be humankind’s leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.

The Pakistani Left is re-grouping

The Pakistani Left has a history to be proud of and is regrouping to fight in new battles, as Qualandar Bux Memon and Ali Mohsni report.
The Pakistani Left has a history to be proud of and is regrouping to fight in new battles, as Qualandar Bux Memon and Ali Mohsni report. A consistent and contested debate reappears like weeds in a garden. Does the Pakistani Left actually exist? Some say no. These folks tend to belong to the Pakistani diaspora, disillusioned by the decline of the Left globally. Others say that it exists, but is fragmented and disunited. If the factions could unite, a socialist revolution would be around the corner. Still others suggest, with pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will, that the Left is there, struggling and often effective but not yet a national force. We can report that the Left in Pakistan is alive and active. True, as a national force, it is weak. Unity, which would help achieve a national presence, is still elusive, although some mergers have occurred. But the Left in Pakistan has been remarkably successful in the cultural sphere. It has documented and presented the life of the workers and peasants and brought them to centre stage in national affairs. More recently, it has been working with significant movements of workers and peasants in what are locally known as ‘livelihood struggles’ to bring concrete changes to the lives of the working class. The Pakistani Left has a long and distinguished history. It begins in a Chinese restaurant in London. In 1930, Sajjad Zaheer, a leftwing writer, invited a number of Indian intellectuals to discuss a short document over dinner. The meeting ended with the establishment of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA). As Zaheer later wrote in his biography, ‘we wished to end the poisonous effects of superstition and religious hatred in our homelands’. PWA’s manifesto aimed to change ‘the standard of beauty’ from ‘poetic ecstasy and sighing over the coyness’ of the fair sex, to the beauty in a perspiring poor woman, whose ‘withered cheeks’ glow with ‘sacrifice, devotion and endurance’. It set the tone for generations of leftwing writers and is a source of inspiration for leftwing politics in Pakistan today. After Partition in 1947, PWA became the All Pakistan Progressive Writers Association (APPWA). Its members included many noted Urdu poets and writers, including the celebrated poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The association propagated progressive ideas at the national level, both in Urdu and English. Progressive Papers Limited was formed to publish two widely read dailies – Pakistan Times and Imroze, and a weekly literary paper called Lail o Nahaar. Dictators’ wrath But the Left faced persecution from the very inception of Pakistan. The government used colonial laws to ban progressive publications and gatherings and jailed many members of the APPWA. Zaheer was accused of conspiracy; Faiz was imprisoned. The Communist Party was banned in 1954 and Progressive Papers Limited was appropriated by the state in 1959. From then on, the Left had to face the wrath of one dictator after another. When General Ayyub Khan came to power in 1958, he immediately arrested a string of writers and young leaders. Student leader Hassan Nasir was tortured to death to intimidate students. The democratically elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who initially supported the Left, also turned against them. To impress a visiting team from the World Bank in 1972, striking workers were beaten, arrested and 30 workers were shot dead in Karachi. This marked the beginning of the regime’s crackdown, resulting in mass arrests, torture and assassination. Bhutto’s successor, General Zia, continued the policies. Brutalized, banned, with most of their elder leaders in jail and younger ones tortured and murdered as state policy, what remained of the Left was forced to leave the country.Many of the exiled leftwing activists returned in 1988, after the restoration of democracy. By now, Pakistan had changed. There were no leftwing organizations, student unions were banned, and worker unions had either been Islamized or barred. Progressive writers were marginalized and their ideas no longer had the reach they once enjoyed. The state had privileged rightwing groups, showering them with funds, and had promoted the idea that the Left was anti-Islam and, therefore, anti-Pakistan. Reorganizing under these circumstances was no easy task. The Left articulated two answers: it organized on traditional lines, establishing political parties and unionizing the workers; and focused sharply on the struggles of workers and peasants for better pay and conditions. As a result, a number of notable Left organizations and groupings have emerged in Pakistan over the last few years, including the Workers Party, Labour Party of Pakistan, International Socialists, Communist Mazdoor Kisan Party and The Struggle group. Culture of democracy Politically, the energies of these parties and groups are focused on establishing a culture of democracy in Pakistan. For example, when the liberal élite and the Right supported the 1999 coup by General Musharraf, the Left was the single voice in opposition. It recognized the historical drive of the military to expand itself further into the economic and social life of the country and its commitment to secrecy and the expansion of the security state. During the struggle to restore democracy, the Left openly supported the lawyers’ movement (2007-09) that led to Musharraf’s exile. Moreover, these organizations are intrinsically opposed to the ‘personalization of politics’ of the traditional parties. For example, the Pakistan People’s Party can only be led by a member of the Bhutto family – the party’s recent leadership succession was decided by the will of the late Benazir Bhutto, with members having no say. Similarly, the Pakistan Muslim League, the main opposition party, who are currently in power in the Punjab province, is headed by one industrial family. Its current leader is Nawaz Sharif and the party belongs to his family. Such hierarchical, feudal structures contrast sharply with the political parties of the Left, which hold annual or bi-annual conventions to elect office bearers. Gender and caste are also seen as important and members of minorities or groups that face discrimination are encouraged to take leadership positions. But it is the Left’s work with livelihood struggles that is most significant. ‘We decided that it was important to intervene in worker and peasant movements,’ says Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party of Pakistan. Livelihood struggles organize workers and peasants to fight for their rights and save their land and environment, and provide them with political clout. Sindho Bachao Taralla (Save the Indus), for example, brings together various groups to resist the internationally funded mega-irrigation projects along the Indus River. It has fought for locals’ water rights and resisted a number of state interventions, while using ecological methods of political resistance. The movement emphasizes indigenous modes of activity and decision-making within traditional Sath, or people’s tribunals. It is effectively working outside the state and resisting the state’s drive to marginalize further the peasants. The Anjuman Mazarain Punjab (Tenants’ Association of the Punjab) emerged after the military’s attempt to turn peasants from tenanted share-croppers to contracted workers on its farms in South Punjab. As it turned out, the farms were illegally held by the military, having been established by the British Indian Army and then passed to the Pakistan Army after Partition. A million-strong movement emerged to resist the army’s attempts. They took possession of the land and even refused the previous serf-like share-cropping arrangement the army had made with the tenants. The military reacted with extreme violence, but the movement has managed to maintain its control over the land. The association’s success represents a significant departure from the norm. It challenged the military in its stronghold of the Punjab and won, and women were in the forefront of the (often violent) resistance. In addition, around 40 per cent of tenanted farmers in the association are Christian: the movement abandoned the religious divide which is often used by the state to isolate and marginalize religious minorities. A more traditional, but equally significant, movement supported by the Left is that of power-loom workers in the industrial city of Faisalabad. Led by the charismatic leader of the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), Mian Qayyum, it emerged in the summer of 2010. LQM organized a city-wide strike of 250,000 workers demanding a pay increase and registration for social security cards which would entitle them to healthcare and pensions. The strike was violently resisted. Two LQM leaders were shot dead, others beaten and arrested. Four are still in prison. However, after shutting down the city for 19 days, the strikers won and gained a 13 per-cent raise. Since then, LQM has continued to grow. It now has 19 offices in Faisalabad, with two full-time workers in each, and is spreading to other cities. From these foundations, the Left desires to push on to economic and social transformation. It’s a difficult, perilous task. But the Pakistani Left has never been more prepared.

100,000 Egyptians protest as ‘Pharaoh’ Morsi digs heels in over power grab

What diplomatic road will China's new leadership follow?

Every move of China attracts wide attention as it is the second largest economy in the world. Where will the new leadership lead China? And will policies be regulated? All these questions have become the focus of people from all walks of life. In response, the 18th CPC National Congress gave a clear answer, which not only reiterates China’s long-standing diplomatic guidelines and policies, but also shows new development of China's diplomatic thoughts. First, China keeps its fundamental diplomatic policy unchanged. Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th CPC National Congress reiterates that China will adhere to an independent and peaceful diplomatic policy, unswervingly follow a road of peaceful development, always persist firmly in a mutually beneficial and win-win strategy of opening-up, and insist on the development of friendly cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, so as to build a harmonious world with lasting peace and common prosperity. Facts have proved these are correct policies that meet China’s actual conditions as well as current trend of development, reflecting the stability and continuity of China's foreign policy. To achieve the development in an open, cooperative and win-win manner, China develops itself by striving for a peaceful international environment, while in turn upholding and improving world peace with its development and expanding the convergence of interests with all circles. At the 18th CPC National Congress, China made a solemn commitment about which road it will follow. Second, some policy declarations that attracted high attention from the outside world do not suggest any change in China's diplomatic policy. Hu’s report to the 18th CPC National Congress points out that China will resolutely uphold its national sovereignty, security and development benefits, and never yield to any external pressure. This is China’s consistent policy, which has not changed, and will not change in the future. Besides, China’s adherence to the road of peaceful development does not mean that it gives up the right to uphold its national interests.Third, the emphasis on the "win-win" concept is the new element in China’s foreign policy. The win-win concept that China advocates is not only an idea restricted to the economic sector, but also a strategy that is applied to all international affairs. In economy, it advocates common benefits and common development; in politics, it means mutual respect and equal treatment; in security, it emphases common security, collective security and cooperative security; and in culture, it focuses on inclusiveness, mutual appreciation and coexistence. The world is changing, and so is China. However, China's commitment in the diplomatic policy of upholding and improving the peaceful development of the world will not change, while its commitment in the common pursuit of a bright future will not change. China’s diplomacy will march forward during the course of inheritance and development, make due contributions to the peaceful development of the world and the prosperity and progress of all human beings, with an opener and more tolerant mentality as well as more active and effective efforts.

China urges int'l community to fulfill Afghanistan commitments

The peace reconstruction process in Afghanistan is now at a crucial juncture, a Chinese envoy said here Tuesday, calling on the international community to fulfill its commitments to the Central Asian country. Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, made the statement while addressing a UN General Assembly meeting on the situation in Afghanistan. In recent years, with the help of international community and thanks to the tireless efforts of the Afghan people, Afghanistan's peace reconstruction process has achieved positive results, including achievements in political, economic, social and development areas which are recognized by all, Wang said. According to him, the building up of the Afghan national security forces is progressing smoothly, thereby laying a solid foundation for a comprehensive takeover of security and defense responsibilities. "Currently, the peace reconstruction process in Afghanistan is at a crucial juncture," he said. "The establishment of a peaceful, stable, independent and progressive Afghanistan calls for the joint efforts of Afghanistan and the international community." The ambassador called for continued support and help from the international community to Afghanistan's reconstruction and development. "The international community has committed to providing 16 billion U.S. dollars in financial assistance to Afghanistan by 2015," he said. "That assistance should be reflected in concrete actions as soon as possible." Wang stressed that the international community's assistance to Afghanistan must fully respect the priority areas set out by the country and support the full implementation of the national development strategy. "The international community must, on the basis of full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, support Afghanistan's efforts to enhance its ability to develop sustainably and increase its government's capacity, so as to realize, at an early date, the objective of an Afghanistan governed by Afghans," he said. The Chinese envoy also noted that the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, which must proceed gradually and orderly, should occur with full consideration for the need to maintain Afghanistan's security and stability. As for the UN efforts with regard to Afghanistan, Wang said that China supports the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts to solve the question of Afghanistan. "We hope that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will continue to strengthen its coordination and cooperation with the government of Afghanistan," said the envoy. China also strongly supports greater cooperation among countries of the region on the Afghan issue on the basis of the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, Wang added

New anti-China Asian trilateral grouping emerges

India, Indonesia and Australia will form the first "troika" to confer on the Indian Ocean, a first step towards a trilateral grouping in Asia. This new engagement is believed to be significant as all three countries seek to hedge against possible Chinese expansionism. Peter Varghese, Australian high commissioner and new foreign secretary, said Canberra would be taking charge of the Indian Ocean regional grouping next year, and an India-Australia-Indonesia trilateral would be one of the early deliverables. Talking to TOI on the eve of his departure, Varghese said, "We will have a troika with Indonesia, the incoming vice-chair. This will be a good window to do things, to push practical agenda for IORARC." The Indian Ocean is proving to be an important strategic outreach for India, as well as Australia, which now focuses more on what it calls the "Indo-Pacific" rather than East Asia. It has created convergences between India and countries like Australia in ways that would not have happened earlier. Varghese said, "I think we are in a qualitative new space in the (bilateral) relationship. We have now cleared the obstacles that were holding the relationship back. The students' safety issue, while we don't want to be complacent about it, I think is behind us. The uranium issue is now resolved. We've now got some clear air in the relationship." India is looming higher in the Australian mindset. India, as Varghese points out, is not only the source for the largest number of legal migrants into Australia, it's also one of the greatest sources for skilled labour. The Australian government's recent white paper places a big emphasis on the India relationship. For the first time, both countries are working on geo-political and security issues — the two nations have quietly launched a bilateral dialogue on East Asia. The big thing, Varghese says, will be an India-Australia approach towards building up the East Asia Summit into an important element of a regional security architecture. "This is a time of some fluidity strategically in Asia, and it's very instant. We are trying to create institutions that help us manage what is going to be a historic transition in the region. The history of Asia is not strong on institutions. It offers a good prospect to get a single institution that can deal with big economic and strategic issues in an integrated way. Australia and India have common objectives." Last week's East Asia summit showed how the forum can be easily hijacked by territorial disputes. Varghese observes, "The next EAS will be held in the background of a number of concerns about what is happening in relation with territorial disputes in the region. It would be a natural thing for the EAS to discuss that. We all want to see those issues resolved in a way that uphold certain core principles, the most important of which is the peaceful resolution of disputes and also a resolution which respects international law, freedom of navigation and freedom of the high seas."

Bilawal Bhutto to contest elections in three constituencies

The Express Tribune
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will contest the next general elections from three constituencies in Jamshoro, Larkana and Lyari, said the provincial minority affairs minister, Dr Mohan Lal Kohistani, on Tuesday. Talking to party workers of the minority wing from Jamshoro and Tharparkar districts at his office, he said that the ruling party will soon formally launch its countrywide electioneering campaign under the leadership of Bilawal. The PPP would bring all nationalists of Sindh and Balochistan into mainstream politics persuading them to join hands under President Asif Ali Zardari’s national reconciliation policy, the minister said, according to an official handout.

White House blasts Republican ‘obsession’ with Rice and Benghazi

By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News
The White House sharply escalated its attacks Tuesday on Republicans trying to stop Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice from succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Press secretary Jay Carney described GOP lawmakers as being gripped by a politically fueled "obsession" with a series of television appearances Rice made shortly after the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which she wrongly suggested the attack had stemmed from a demonstration over an anti-Muslim video rather than a terrorist assault. Carney's comments came after Rice met privately on Capitol Hill with Republican senators who have said they intend to block her nomination if President Barack Obama chooses her to replace Clinton as the nation's top diplomat. Rice also acknowledged for the first time, in a written statement issued by her office, that her initial public comments on the Benghazi assault were wrong because there had been no protest outside the compound. Carney said the U.S. still does not know who carried out the assault, which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But he said GOP focus on Rice's early statements was a politically motivated distraction from efforts to identify those responsible for the killings. "The questions that remain to be answered have to do with what happened in Benghazi, who was responsible for the deaths of four Americans, including our ambassador, and what steps we need to take to ensure that something like that doesn't happen again." Carney said. In appearance after appearance, Rice said that American intelligence had pinned the blame on the assault on extremists who took advantage of a demonstration outside the facility. Tuesday, Rice acknowledged the information initially provided by the intelligence community was wrong. "Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved," Rice said. Rice, accompanied by Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, met with Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who have accused Rice (and the Obama administration in general) of misleading the public by tying the assault to the video. Republicans have suggested the administration hoped to blunt the potential political impact of the attack—the first to claim the life of an American ambassador in 30 years—shortly before the presidential election. "Bottom line: I'm more disturbed now than I was before," Graham told reporters after the meeting. "We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get," McCain said. Carney shot back, saying there were "no unanswered questions" about Rice's early televised statements. "The focus on—some might say obsession on—comments made on Sunday shows seems to me and to many to be misplaced," Carney said. "I know that Sunday shows have vaunted status in Washington, but they have almost nothing to do—in fact zero to do—with what happened in Benghazi." And neither, to hear Carney tell it, did Rice. "Ambassador Rice has no responsibility for collecting, analyzing and providing intelligence, nor does she have responsibility as the United States ambassador to the United Nations for diplomatic security around the globe," he said. So why, then, did the White House anoint Rice the administration point person to answer questions about a possible intelligence failure and consular security? Why not Secretary of State Clinton? Director of National Intelligence James Clapper? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta? National Security Adviser Tom Donilon? "She is a principal on the president's foreign policy team," Carney said. He added, "To this day it is the assessment of this administration and of our intelligence community … that they acted at least in part in response to what they saw happening in Cairo and took advantage of that situation." In other words, according to one well-placed source, the perpetrators of the attack may have concluded that anger at the video gave them the maximum opportunity to get sympathy or support across the Muslim world, and might even inspire copycat attacks. Rice's much-dissected Sept. 16 comments broadly follow those lines. Obama has fiercely defended Rice, while carefully declining to say whether he has chosen her to succeed Clinton. Another leading contender is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry. McCain and Graham have pledged to try to filibuster her confirmation, but they are well short of the votes needed to do so.

Why the Fiscal Cliff is the Wrong Thing to Worry About

By Michael Sivy
When asked what it was like living through the German bombing of Crete during World War II, British novelist Evelyn Waugh replied that it began impressively enough but went on far too long. The same might be said for the current debate over the Fiscal Cliff. This issue loomed large during the Presidential campaign, but now promises to become an endless and tedious dispute. In the end there will probably be an unsatisfying compromise that avoids disaster but solves nothing important, while little attention is paid to America’s fundamental economic problems. The essence of the debate is that the Federal government has been running an ultimately unsustainable deficit of more than $1 trillion a year. A variety of changes in taxes and government spending are scheduled to go into effect in 2013 that would reduce this deficit by as much as $645 billion. That would bring the deficit down to a tolerable level, but poses two problems. First, more than two-thirds of the financial burden of this reduction would fall on the middle class – something both political parties have promised they would avoid. Second, there is genuine disagreement as to whether such a sudden drop in the deficit would be a drag on a still-weak economy. One school of thought is that there is plenty of money around, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. In addition, U.S. corporations have accumulated a cash hoard of more than $1.7 trillion, according to the Fed, and may have trillions more stashed in overseas subsidiaries. The reason for today’s slow growth, therefore, is not a lack of money but rather the fact that everyone is hesitant to spend because of uncertainty about the deficit, taxes and government policy generally. From this perspective, any consensus solution that starts bringing down the deficit would unleash loads of consumer spending and business investment. The alternative viewpoint, advocated by economists such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, is that reducing the deficit makes no sense at all in present circumstances. As long as the economy is limping, inflation is not a risk. And spending that revs up growth will do more to improve the long-term financial health of the U.S. than reducing the current deficit will. The specific details of a solution to the Fiscal Cliff may be uncertain, but the basic outlines seem fairly clear. First, the government will not allow a default or some other financial catastrophe to occur. Second, the cliff isn’t really a cliff but a slope. The problems will slowly intensify over the coming year and can be fixed at any point – or even in stages. No one wants the full spectrum of tax increases. Spending cuts that are truly intolerable will be reversed. Some progress on deficit reduction needs to be visible. What will be the overall effect on the economy of all these compromises? Probably not much. There is, however, a real debate that is not occurring but should be. While it is true that a large deficit in any particular year is not a problem, longer term trends do matter. If national debt is relatively low – less than 50% of annual GDP, say – there’s plenty of room to spend in the short run and then balance the budget later. This is basically what happened over the course of the combined Reagan and Clinton administrations. The result was an economic boom that lasted more than 20 years. But as debt rises beyond that level, a country’s core growth rate begins to slow. Indeed, the National Bureau of Economic Research calculates that when debt passes 90% of GDP, average annual growth slows by one percentage point. Basically government borrowing competes with businesses that want to borrow to invest and raises their interest costs, while interest payments on government debt eat up money that could either go for infrastructure investments or tax cuts. It’s a bit difficult to gauge exactly how close the U.S. is to the danger zone, because debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund doesn’t really count (it’s money the government owes to itself). However, at the current rate, the U.S. will probably start feeling ill effects within four years or so. Any reduction in the deficit that comes about because of fiscal cliff negotiations will only be large enough to push the deadline back by another two or three years. A one-percentage point reduction in the annual growth rate of the U.S. economy may not sound like a big deal. But after 15 years it would mean that the standard of living would be almost 15% lower than it would otherwise be. Unemployment would be higher and incomes would probably be more unequal. And finally, the ability of the U.S. to run future deficits would be greatly reduced. For debt to remain constant as a percent of GDP it can only grow as fast as the economy. Today’s $1.6 trillion economy can support a $520 billion deficit if growth is 3.25% (the historical average for the U.S.), but only $360 billion if growth is 2.25%. What that means is that if debt continues to climb, the U.S. will need additional tax increases or spending cuts equivalent to $160 billion today – or roughly twice the amount of money that would come from raising income tax rates for the rich. Whatever resolution is achieved for the Fiscal Cliff will probably make very little difference to the long-term trajectory of the U.S. economy. What does matter desperately is entitlement reform, controlling the growth of health-care costs and, ideally, some sort of comprehensive tax reform that could raise a bit more money while being less of a burden on economic growth. Unless these issues are addressed, the Fiscal Cliff debate may monopolize the attention of legislators and commentators, but it will all be a lot of sound and fury signifying very little indeed.

Obama to appeal to public on fiscal cliff

President Barack Obama plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less. The White House said Tuesday that the president intends to hold a series of events aimed at building support for his approach to avoid across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. Obama will meet with small business owners at the White House on Tuesday and with middle-class families on Wednesday. Obama’s strategy is two-fold: Negotiate behind closed doors with Republicans while taking his agenda outside the Beltway only weeks after winning re-election. The president’s visit to a small business in Hatfield, Pa., that makes parts for a construction toy company will cap a week of public outreach as the White House and congressional leaders seek a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Obama’s tactics were quickly panned by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said Tuesday that ‘‘rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working out an agreement, he’s back out on the campaign trail, presumably with the same old talking points we’re all familiar with.’’ ‘‘If the president wants a solution to the challenges of the moment, the people he needs to be talking to are the members of his own party, so he can convince them of the need to act,’’ McConnell, R-Ky., said. Both sides warn the so-called fiscal cliff could harm the nation’s economic recovery, but an agreement still appears far from assured. The White House and congressional Republicans have differed on whether to raise revenue through higher tax rates or by closing tax loopholes and deductions. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pushed for raising additional revenue through the reducing of tax loopholes instead of raising tax rates on wealthy Americans and Republicans have said Democrats need to come up with cuts in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The White House has countered that the president will not sign legislation that extends current tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners, or those households with incomes over $250,000. White House officials have expressed a willingness to discuss changes to Medicare and Medicaid but oppose addressing Social Security as part of the fiscal cliff discussions. Obama has signaled his intention to rally the public to pressure Congress to support his agenda, an approach that helped him win passage of a payroll tax cut extension and prevented interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling last summer. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters after the election that the president’s volunteer base was crucial to his re-election but said they had ‘‘more progress to make, and there’s only one way to do it: together.’’ Following the election, Obama aides asked supporters to record YouTube videos discussing the need to have the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes. Some of the people who shared their stories on YouTube planned to join Obama at the White House on Wednesday. The lame-duck session has created a new lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill, with business and labor groups vying for an advantage in debate over taxes and spending. Business leaders have created a group called The Campaign to Fix the Debt, which has promoted a long-term plan to fix the nation’s debt and deficits. Unions and liberal groups are trying to mobilize Obama’s supporters through a website called theaction.org, which aims to end the Bush tax cuts ‘‘for the richest two percent.’’ The website encourages supporters to use social media to promote Obama’s agenda. House Republicans planned to hold events in the coming weeks with small businesses in their districts to emphasize the effect that tax increases could have on small business and their employees. On Friday, Obama will tour and deliver remarks at The Rodon Group manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pa., offering the company up as an example of a business that depends on middle-class consumers during the holiday season. The company manufactures parts for K'NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K'NEX Building Sets and Angry Birds Building Sets. Congressional Republicans, led by Boehner, have expressed openness to discussing additional revenue but oppose any plan that raises tax rates on the wealthy. They argue that the higher rates would also hurt some small businesses and hinder economic growth.Continued...

President Obama prepares for his second term,traditional shuffling of the Cabinet

As President Obama prepares for his second term, preparations have begun for the traditional shuffling of the Cabinet. Top priority for the president: filling slots for those top officials heading — if not running — for the door: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. To replace Clinton, Democratic insiders suggest that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Susan Rice is the frontrunner, with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also a viable candidate. Rice has been harshly criticized by Republicans for the erroneous comments she made on Sunday news talk shows after the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, comments that were based on intelligence reports that falsely blamed the attack on a protest against an anti-Muslim video. When the president, during his recent press conference, offered a vociferous defense of Rice, many of those close to him began to suspect he was tipping his hand as to what he might decide. To replace Geithner at Treasury, White House chief of staff Jack Lew is thought to have the inside track if he wants it, with other possibilities including Neal Wolin, the current deputy secretary of the Treasury and Lael Brainard, current under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs.Other informed sources suggest that there is consideration being given to a business/CEO type such as investor Roger Altman, former Time/Warner chair Richard Parsons, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Those are the two most pressing jobs to fill, with Clinton exhausted from a long stretch in government — eight years as first lady, eight as senator, and four as secretary of state — and the president having personally promised Geithner’s wife that he could leave as soon as possible after the election. Any of the business/CEO types being discussed for treasury secretary could also serve as secretary of commerce, a position that for the Obama administration has proved as troublesome as the role of drummer in Spinal Tap. Jeff Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management & Budget, is said to be under consideration. It’s too flip to refer to it as a consolation prize, but informed sources say that — with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also planning on leaving — Kerry could be offered the position secretary of defense if he wants it, though the Massachusetts senator has suggested he only wants State. Another option, Michelle Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense for Policy, would be the first female to serve in that position. There was some discussion of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon moving across the river, but it seems clear, sources say, that he’s staying where he is. If Lew leaves to take the position at Treasury, some possible replacements for him as chief of staff include deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough or Vice President Biden’s former chief of staff Ron Klain. Tom Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, has also been discussed. President Obama’s senior adviser David Plouffe has also long discussed leaving the White House. There are many options to fill his shoes, including the elevation of communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Also possible: bringing back former press secretary Robert Gibbs, or former deputy chief of staff/campaign manager Jim Messina. Another option might be to bring in some of the people who were part of the messaging shop in the campaign — David Simus, who served as director of opinion research for the campaign, or Larry Grisolano, who did ads for campaign.

wipe out illiteracy: School for a dollar

Egyptians stage mass anti-Morsi rally

What a successful woman needs: a selfless and supportive spouse

Italian politician Licia Ronzulli made a media stir last week when she brought her baby to a voting session at the European Parliament. It was a maternal gesture as she was still breastfeeding. The following article discusses how career women can strike a balance between work and life. After their daughter Annie was born, Gail McGovern and her husband established what came to be known as the "kitchen calendar rule." At the time, McGovern worked for AT&T overseeing 10,000 employees; her husband ran a large unit of Hewlett-Packard. They both needed to travel regularly for work, but one of them also needed to be home for Annie. "We had two monster jobs," recalls McGovern, who today is CEO of the American Red Cross. "In the beginning, we fought about who got to take a particular work trip. Then we instituted the kitchen calendar rule: Whoever booked it first got to take the trip." During those years - ones where McGovern recalls her house as "always a mess" - McGovern left the office at 6:30pm to relieve the nanny and spend evenings with Annie. Once Annie was in bed, McGovern was on conference calls until midnight. Despite their demanding jobs, McGovern and her husband never asked the nanny to work overtime, and they never missed one of Annie's school assemblies. McGovern, a former Harvard Business School professor who also held top management jobs at Fidelity Investments, acknowledges that it wasn't always easy. "You have to love to work, and you have to love to parent.... If you choose your employers wisely and choose your mate wisely, there is no question in my mind you can have it all." At a time when issues like gender inequality in the boardroom and the dearth of women in corporate America continue to make headlines, it is worth asking: How important is the role of a supportive spouse in the lives of high-powered female executives? "Those kind of jobs are all-consuming. For women who have husbands and kids and lives - how do they manage?" asks Betsy Myers, director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University in Waltham, Massashusetts. Myers, who leads corporate workshops around the world on the changing nature of women's leadership roles, adds: "Of the hundreds of women I have spoken to who have really made it big, most tell me they could not have gotten to where they are without their incredibly supportive husband.... At least the ones who are still married say this." Research from Stewart Friedman, Wharton practice professor of management and director of the Work/Life Integration Project, finds that young men and women today have a greater understanding of the challenges associated with juggling work obligations with family life. There are signs that the next generation of women CEOs and dual-career couples will have a more egalitarian dynamic in the home. Friedman heads a longitudinal research project that surveys the school's students and alumni on their beliefs and attitudes about two-career relationships. In 1992, he surveyed more than 450 Wharton undergraduate students as they graduated. This past May, he posed the same set of questions to Wharton undergraduates in the Class of 2012. The survey asked questions such as: "To what extent do you agree that two-career relationships work best when one partner is more advanced than the other?" In 1992, men were more likely to agree with such statements than women, but in 2012, men are less likely to agree, but women are more likely to agree. Noha Waibsnaider, founder and CEO of Peeled Snacks, the eight-year-old company that sells healthy snacks to Starbucks, Whole Foods and other locations, has two small children. She says that she and her husband, who is the head of sales at the Brooklyn, NY-based company, are "big believers in work-life balance." "Working crazy hours does not make you more productive or effective," she says. "I try to spend the hours of 5pm to 8pm every day with my kids, and I don't check e-mail during those hours." She employs a full-time nanny, and her mother lives close by and regularly provides childcare. She and her husband split household chores equally. "We're very different, and we have complementary skill sets. I do a lot of the home and kids' organization, and he probably does more of the grocery shopping and cooking. We're both in charge."

Medvedev: Crisis in Syria Should Be Settled by Syrians Themselves

Russia's Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, reiterated his country's stance which calls for solving the crisis in Syrian by the Syrians themselves. Russia Today website quoted Medvedev as saying in a press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, in Paris that Russia, unlike its foreign partners including France, believes that settling the conflict in Syria should be done by the Syrians themselves. "We don't consider that interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries is a correct step even if we had questions about the observance of human rights," added Medvedev, indicating that these questions should be directed to both the Syrian government and opposition. He said that both sides are responsible for violence, noting that "Our mission is to persuade them to sit down around the dialogue table and reach agreement on the future of the Syrian people and not only the future of President Bashar al-Assad." The Special Envoy to the Russian President, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov discussed with the Syrian Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad the latest developments and situation in Syria. A statement for the Russian Foreign Ministry, quoted by Russia Today TV on Tuesday said that the two sides underlined the mutual understanding of the necessity for an immediate halt to the bloodshed in Syria and move the situation into the political settlement stream through peaceful negotiations and an internal comprehensive Syrian dialogue. Bogdanov announced on Monday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet representatives of the Syrian opposition at the National Coordination Committee next Thursday.

Saudi Arabia criticised over text alerts tracking women's movements

Male 'guardians' receive text message whenever women leave country under new system
Saudi Arabia has been accused of behaving like Big Brother after introducing technology that alerts male "guardians" by text whenever women under their guardianship leave the country. The kingdom already bans women from driving and excludes them from most workplaces. It also disapproves of women's sport. Since last week it has been operating a new electronic system that tracks all cross-border movements. The system functions even if a woman is travelling with her husband or male "guardian", with a text sent immediately to the man. Saudi women must get formal approval from their guardians to travel abroad, and have to hand in an infamous "yellow slip", signed by a male, at the airport or border. The move has prompted protests. "The new compulsory text service, compliments of the Saudi ministry of interior, is not only a vicious reminder that Big Brother is watching me but that now he will snitch and tell my 'guardian' every time I leave the country," Safa Alahmad, a freelance journalist and documentary maker, said. "Apparently, as a Saudi woman, I don't even deserve the simplest of rights like the right to privacy. The core issue remains the same. Saudi women are viewed and treated as minors by the Saudi government. A text message doesn't change that. It's just adding insult to injury." "The authorities are using technology to monitor women," the columnist Badriya al-Bashr wrote, criticising the "state of slavery under which [Saudi] women are held". Some Twitter users compared the Riyadh government to the Taliban. Others jokingly suggested women should be microchipped to keep tabs on them. Manal al-Sharif, a well-known women's right campaigner, raised the alarm over the new text system on Twitter after a couple alerted her. The husband was travelling with his wife when he received an unprompted text at Riyadh international airport saying she had left the country. Sharif, 33, attracted global attention last year when she led an underground civil disobedience campaign to allow women to drive. About 100 women took part. Many were arrested and jailed; one was sentenced to 10 lashes, and later reprieved. In June Sharif posted an open letter to King Abdullah appealing again for an end to the ban on women driving, the only law of its kind in the world. Bloggers in Saudi Arabia have pointed out that the new text system does not merely apply to women. Text messages are also sent to male "guardians" whenever any of their "dependants", deemed to be children of both sexes and foreign workers, leave the country. The interior ministry introduced the system in April as part of its modernising e-government plan. The goal was to replace the "yellow slip" with electronic permission to leave. The text messages were originally sent to "guardians" who opted into the system, but are now apparently being sent out universally. According to Human Rights Watch, guardians can include a woman's husband, father, brother or even minor son. They enjoy extraordinary power over female relatives of all ages. They can approve or reject their travel, work, marriages, official business and even healthcare. Apart from areas such as education and healthcare, women are mostly excluded from the workplace. The labour ministry passed several new decrees in July theoretically increasing the number of jobs available to women. But under pressure from religious conservatives it also restated that strict segregation laws, relaxed in 2005, should apply in the workplace.

Saudi authorities detain families at rights protest

Saudi security forces detained dozens of men, women and children on Tuesday after they staged a rare protest outside a human rights group's office in Riyadh to demand the release of jailed relatives, activists said. Protests are banned in the conservative kingdom, a U.S. ally that shows little tolerance towards dissent. But relatives have occasionally gathered outside government offices in the world's largest oil exporter to demand the release of prisoners they say have been held for long periods without trial. "They detained six children, 23 women and around 30 men," Ali Alhattab, an activist told Reuters from the Saudi capital. Activists posted pictures on social media showing a crowd surrounded by security forces. Reuters could not verify the images. Saudi Arabia, which has been a target for al Qaeda attacks, says the prisoners are all held on security grounds. Activists say some are also detained for purely political activity and have never been charged. An Interior Ministry spokesman did not immediately comment on Tuesday's incident. The government has said in the past that prisoners accused of "terrorism-related" charges were undergoing a fair judicial process any relatives who protest are stopped and dealt with according to legal procedures. Last month the kingdom convicted and sentenced 15 men to between three and 15 days in jail on charges of staging a sit-down demonstration outside a prison in September. The court also handed the men suspended sentences of between 50 and 90 lashes and suspended jail terms of between two and five months. The incident was condemned by Human Rights Watch which said the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution had charged a total of 19 men with 'instigating chaos and sedition' and 'gathering illegally'. "I believe that such actions worsen the situation. Intimidating and confronting the families will not make them back down on their requests for fair trials," Alhattab said. Saudi Arabia has not seen the kind of protests that toppled four Arab heads of state since the start of last year but small demonstrations have taken place from time to time in the Eastern Province, where the Sunni Muslim kingdom's Shi'ite minority live. Shi'ites complain of discrimination, which Saudi Arabia denies.

President Karzai calls for investment in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday called on national and international investors to invest in the conflict-ridden country. "Any country, any company and anyone is welcomed if invest in Afghanistan to help take this country towards more progress," President Karzai said in conference here to encourage investment in Afghanistan. He also said that China has already began investment in Afghanistan and the government would also welcome Iran, Pakistan and India if do so. Allaying the concerns over the withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan leader pointed out that the security situation in the country is improving by each passing day and "there is no need to worry". However, he accused western media of reporting baseless propaganda, saying certain western media has been reporting that Afghanistan would slide towards instability in 2014 and Afghan president would declare emergency situation. The president lashed at all such reports, adding that Afghanistan will be further stabilized, there will be no emergency situation, the presidential election will be held as per scheduled and the country would have new president in 2014. About strategic cooperation with US, the Afghan president stated that Afghanistan wants to ensure its national interests in any pact, saying Afghanistan wants US to support and equip its national security forces, to build its canals and irrigation systems and to launch development projects. The president later inaugurated an industrial exhibition which put on display the national industrial products. Briefing the audience, Wafiullah Iftikhar, director of Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA), a government-backed body to encourage investment, said that $553 million had been invested in Afghanistan so far in 2012, showing 20 percent increase against last year. Presently around 3,000 small and medium plants, according to officials, are operating in the country which producing light items such as biscuits, macaroni, tissue papers, medicines, soaps, washing liquid, drinking water, juice, soft drinks, etc.

Time Slipping, U.S. Ponders Afghan Role After 2014

American and allied military planners are drawing up the broad outlines of a force that would remain in Afghanistan following the handover to Afghan security after 2014, including a small counterterrorism force with an eye toward Al Qaeda, senior officials say. Under the emerging plan, the American counterterrorism force might number less than 1,000, one military official said. In a parallel effort, NATO forces would advise Afghan forces at major regional military and police headquarters but most likely have a minimal battlefield role, with the exception of some special operations advisers. Final decisions on the size of the American and NATO presence after 2014 and its precise configuration have not been made by the United States or its allies. But one option calls for about 10,000 American and several thousand non-American NATO troops. The planning for a post-2014 mission has emerged as an early test for President Obama in his new term as he tries to flesh out the strategy for transferring the responsibility for security to the Afghans. But it is not the only challenge: After the White House decides what sort of military presence to propose to the Afghan government for after 2014, it must turn to the question of how quickly to reduce its troop force before then. As one of his last acts as senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen is expected to submit a formal recommendation for how quickly to begin withdrawing the United States’ 66,000 troops. Two American officials who are involved in Afghan issues said that General Allen wants to keep a significant military capability through the fighting season ending in fall 2013, which could translate to a force of more than 60,000 troops until the end of that period. Afghan forces are to assume the lead role for the war next year, and a military officer said that such a troop level would enable the United States to better support them, maintain the initiative and control critical terrain. But such an approach may entail a heavier military involvement than the White House, which appears weary of the war, might like. The White House is expected to ask General Allen to submit a range of options for drawing down forces next year, including some involving substantial reductions in troop levels. “The White House has not yet asked General Allen for his assessment, nor have we begun considering any specific recommendations for troop numbers in 2013 and 2014,” said George Little, the Pentagon spokesman. “What is true is that in June 2011 the president made clear that our forces would continue to come home at a steady pace as we transition to an Afghan lead for security. That it still the case.” The issue is already a politically contentious one. Some leading Democratic lawmakers have signaled that they would like to see steady troop reductions next year while Republicans have argued that speedy withdrawals would jeopardize hard-won gains. There are also questions about General Allen’s future: his e-mails to a woman linked to the F.B.I. inquiry that disclosed David H. Petraeus’s affair are being investigated by the Pentagon inspector general. But General Allen has resumed his duties in Kabul, and Mr. Obama has said that he thinks highly of his military performance. The Marine general who has been nominated to replace him, Joseph F. Dunford Jr., is not scheduled to take up the post until early February and recently told Congress that he had not been part of the planning process. The planning for a post-2014 force is the Obama administration’s first order of business on Afghanistan for several reasons. The United States has opened talks with the Afghans on a security agreement that would authorize an American troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014. So American officials need to define what role American and NATO forces might play then. In addition, NATO’s political arm has authorized the alliance’s military planners to develop a concept for how to carry out the post-2014 mission, which is to be approved by the alliance’s defense ministers early next year. The planning for after 2014 turns on troubling questions on how to guard against the expansion of terrorist groups and advise an Afghan military that has little airpower, poor logistics and difficulties evacuating and treating its own wounded. But it will also depend heavily on the willingness of allied nations to contribute troops and funds. One question is the scope of the mission for the American counterterrorism force. The targets of the counterterrorism force would include Al Qaeda and possibly Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group linked to Al Qaeda that was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and which is found in small numbers in northeast Afghanistan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan might also make the list. But it was unclear whether the Pakistani-based Haqqani network, which American commandos have focused on for the past two years, would also be a potential target of the American force. Officials say that does not appear to be contemplated by the White House. An important question for the NATO mission after 2014 is what level of the Afghan military hierarchy they would advise. It is generally expected that they would advise seven regional Afghan Army corps and several regional Afghan police headquarters. The arrangement would largely insulate the NATO advisers from the battlefield, though officials said advisers might accompany Afghan brigades on major operations. It is unlikely that NATO officers would advise Afghan battalions on the battlefield. That would require many more advisers than the alliance is likely to muster and would entail more risk than most nations seem prepared to assume, though some American experts believe it would make the Afghan military more effective. Still, NATO special operations advisers would be likely to accompany Afghan Army commandos and police SWAT-type units on the battlefield, under the emerging plan. A major challenge is that Afghanistan will not have an effective air force before 2017, if then. American officials said that NATO airpower would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 but will likely only be used on behalf of NATO and American troops and perhaps Afghan units that are accompanied by NATO advisers. NATO forces rely heavily on airpower for airstrikes, supply and medical evacuation since Afghanistan’s roads are poor and often seeded with bombs. To compensate for Afghanistan’s limited airpower, American officials are working on a number of fixes, including providing Afghan forces with armored vehicles that would be equipped with mortars and assault guns. The United States is also looking into expanding the purchase of turboprop planes for the Afghans and is trying to help Afghan pilots learn to fly at night. Equally troubling is the problem of medical evacuations. After 2014, the Afghans will almost certainly need to rely on a system that depends more on ground transportation than helicopters. The Americans want to help them develop more field hospitals. Senior Afghan military officials are well aware of their deficiencies and are counting on American support. “Until 2017, we will have American pilots and engineers flying with us,” said Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, the Afghan Air Force Commander. “They will start the handover of the air force at the beginning of 2017 and at the end of the year it will be complete.” General Wardak also noted that the Afghan military needed NATO help to provide “close air support and medevac.” And he ticked off a long list of equipment he hoped to receive from the United States, including transport airplanes and parts. Still, in the broader sense, a senior American military officer acknowledged that the United States faced formidable difficulties in getting the Afghans ready to operate on their own. The challenge, the officer said, is “building the back end” of the army and the police: “We’ve been focused on their fighting ability. Now it’s the time we need to focus on getting them the ability to get what they need so they can fight.”